The Italian company Hacking Team, a notorious trafficker in computer tools that help governments spy on dissidents and other state enemies, was cracked wide open by an anonymous real hacker on July 5. Reporters Without Borders, a group that defends press freedom world-wide, lists Hacking Team as one of five “Corporate Enemies of the Internet,” five private-sector companies that are “digital era mercenaries.” One million or more of Hacking Team’s internal files are now in the public domain. Among them are email archives which can be conveniently searched on the Wikileaks Web site at https://wikileaks.org/hackingteam/emails/.
These documents reveal a scandal that entangles not just overt dictatorships such as Sudan, Uzbekistan, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Azerbaijan, but also the FBI, DEA, and armed forces in this country. (Presumably it’s easier for the lower-echelon feds to buy computer break-in tools on the open market than to get the NSA to share its in-house goodies.) While publicly billing themselves as “good guys” helping law enforcement, they have no qualms about selling to some of the nastiest regimes on the planet, as long as they can do it in secret.
From a Hacking Team client list. (www.csoonline.com)
The Seattle connection
The Seattle Privacy Coalition has discovered that Hacking Team’s customer mailing lists include the name and address of a Seattle police detective. Here’s what we know:
- The detective is a 19-year veteran of the force.
- Expertise includes Cyber Crimes, Domestic Terrorism, Homeland Security, Surveillance, and Criminal Intelligence.
- Has participated in emergency-response training at the University of Washington.
- Received email messages form Hacking Team in 2013-2014.
We already know that Hacking Team engaged in aggressive marketing, even to the point of hawking their spy software to the Vatican. No, really:
The security firm even tried to sell the Vatican on its services with the creation of a booby trapped Bible app that could load up spy software on the devices of people the Vatican may want to keep tabs of. It’s unclear if the Vatican actually bought Hacking Team’s services or who the Vatican would want to spy on. (fortune.com)
So why was the company in touch with a senior detective in the Seattle Police Department?
- How did the detective wind up on Hacking Team’s mailing list?
- Was this a personal if imprudent interest of the detective’s, or had the detective been assigned to communicate with Hacking Team?
- Has SPD ever actively communicated with Hacking Team?
- Has SPD purchased, or entered into discussions about purchasing, software or services from Hacking Team? (We hear that the Bible app is going cheap.)
The Seattle Privacy Coalition calls on Chief Kathleen O’Toole and Mayor Ed Murray to fully explain the city’s relationship with Hacking Team.