Hacking Team Blames Government For Breach

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The surveillance technology maker said the complex attack required months of planning

Hacking Team, the Milan-based firm best known for selling surveillance technology to governments, said it believes a government may have been responsible for the data breach that hit the company a week ago.

“I think what occurred is not the work of individuals but that the attack, due to its complexity, must have been conducted at a government level or by an organisation with access to very substantial funds,” Hacking Team chief executive David Vincenzetti said in a report in the Sunday edition of Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Complex attack

data-breachThe attack seems to have been planned for months, with considerable time and resources put into the extraction of data, Vincenzetti said.

The incident resulted in about 400GB of data being published online, much of which has now been collected at Wikileaks. No one has yet claimed responsibility, but Hacking Team is unpopular with some due to the nature of its work, and was listed as one of five “Corporate Enemies of the Internet” in a 2012 report by Reporters Without Borders.

The source code of Galileo, the company’s flagship software – also known as Remote Control System (RCS) – was leaked, and Vincenzetti said Hacking Team immediately advised its customers to suspend use of the software until it could release an update mitigating any security issues. Vincenzetti said the company plans to release version 10 of Galileo by the end of the year, which he said would make the leaked code obsolete.

Galileo code leak

Hacking Team said in a separate statement that the source code that was released could “permit anyone to deploy the software against any target of their choice”, adding that “terrorists, extortionists and others can deploy this technology at will if they have the technical ability to do so”.

However, Vincenzetti told La Stampa that after a few weeks without maintenance Galileo becomes useless as countermeasures are developed.

The software can notably allow an attacker to take control of a mobile phone or smartphone, and Vincenzetti noted that one feature can use the phone’s camera to take a photo when the handset is picked up, allowing its user to be identified visually.

Vincenzetti admitted the company has done business with countries criticised for their human rights records, but said it has never broken international trade law. He claimed relations with Sudan predate the arms embargo against the country, and said that when Hacking Team heard its software had been used by the Ethiopian government to spy on a dissenter, it asked for explanations and then terminated the contract.

‘We are the good guys’

“We are the good guys,” Vincenzetti told the paper, saying the company’s software has been used to infiltrate terrorist sleeper cells and help eliminate other legitimate security dangers.

The leaked documents included passwords allegedly used by Hacking Team staff, revealing the use of weak terms, but Vincenzetti said these were “totally fake”.

Vincenzetti said the company has been attacked before, with its offices being raided six months ago by masked intruders who stole and destroyed equipment. He said he was personally intimidated last year by assailants who sabotaged his car.

“But I’m indestructable,” he said.

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