Turning the Table on the Trackers

Wikileaks Sniffs out Spy Salesmen – Published on CorpWatch.org, by Pratap Chatterjee, Sept 6, 2013.

What was Mostapha Maanna of Hacking Team, an Italian surveillance company, doing on his three trips to Saudi Arabia in the last year? A new data trove from WikiLeaks reveals travel details for salesmen like Maanna who hawk electronic technology to track communications by individuals without their knowledge. 

Other examples include – Stephan Oelkers, a top executive at the Gamma Group, an Anglo-German rival, who made three trips to Uganda in early January this year, and again in late May, followed by a trip in mid July and Avner Turniansky, from the Israeli company Verint, who traveled to Nigeria in April.

Given that Maanna, Oelkers and Turniansky share the same occupation – selling spy software to government law enforcement agencies – it would be reasonable to speculate that the three men did not make these trips purely for sight seeing.

All three individuals work for companies that boast about their ability to monitor suspects by following mobile phones, intercepting emails and analyzing social media, so it is perhaps more than a little embarrassing that their own staff have been tracked by activists, effectively turning the tables on them.

Julian Assange, the editor in chief of WikiLeaks, says that the information came from a special counter-intelligence unit that his organization created “to protect WikiLeaks’ assets, staff and sources from hostile intelligence operations and to reveal the nature of intelligence threats against journalists and sources more broadly.”

Wikileaks suspects that many buyers use these technologies to snoop on activists and dissidents. Certainly the technology that Gamma, Hacking Team and Verint offer for sale would allow such surveillance.

According to research conducted by the Kaspersky Lab, an anti-virus company, Hacking Team sells technology that can be used to create emails to target suspects by inviting them to click on a link or attachment that then installs a spy tool called Remote Control System (RCS) on the target’s computer.

RCS (also known as DaVinci) can then copy the Web browsing history of its targets, turn on their computer microphone and webcam to eavesdrop on them, as well record their conversations on computer applications like Skype.

Middle Eastern Travels:

Maanna, whose LinkedIn profile confirms that he works for Hacking Team in Milan, completed high school in Tyre, Lebanon, before moving to Turin, Italy, to do an undergraduate and graduate degree in telecommunications engineering. After finishing his degrees, he worked for two years at Nokia Siemens Network, where he sold mobile data technologies to companies like T-Mobile in the Czech republic and Germany and Orange in Spain and the UK, before he jumped ship to come to the Italian company in January 2011.

In addition to three trips to Saudi Arabia, Maanna’s travel profile places him in Egypt three times in 2013, as well as making two trips each to Malaysia and Morocco in the last three years, among other countries like United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turkey.

Marco Bettini, a sales manager for almost ten years at HackingTeam whose LinkedIn profile says he studied at the Istituto Radiotecnico Beltrami, is also identified as traveling to Morocco and UAE in February 2013.

Activists Targeted: … //

… Company Response: … //

… Profiting Off the Suffering of Individuals: … //

… “Companies know full well how their products work and, after tailoring to their specific clients need, know how they will be used,” added Page.
(full long text).

Links:

Are We Having Bank Deregulation Crises or Unrestricted Capital Flow Crises? on naked capitalism, by Gaius Publius, Sept 10, 2013;

see EconPapers;

see Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS);

(see also: Welcome to our new blog: politics for the 99%).

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