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Seventeen countries used FinSpy to spy on their citizens – Wikileaks

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A astounding new leak made by the Wikileaks has stunned the world tech and internet user community across the globe. As per the latest revelations by Wikileaks, almost all countries used a spying software manufactured by a German firm to spy on their unsuspecting citizens (mostly journalists, activists, political dissidents and those considered as pariahs).  The leaks operation is being called Spy Files 4 by Wikileaks and it seems that most countries are guilty of violation of personal freedom of its citizens whosoever it may be, by using this software.

The Software which known as FinSpy and its different versions are manufactured by a German firm Gamma International.  Gamma International is a renowned company which develops powerful software for companies to monitor computers use.  According the first reports about this huge leak published by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), “Gamma has offices and subsidiaries in the United Kingdom, including the Channel Islands, and Germany, but also in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.”

RWB says “Gamma International sells interception equipment to government and law enforcement agencies exclusively.”

“Its FinFisher Suite (which includes Trojans to infect PCs, mobile phones, other consumer electronics and servers, as well as technical consulting) is regarded as one of the most advanced in today’s market,” RWB says.

It gave examples of how governments use FinFisher spyware products to monitor activities.

“A computer or smartphone is remotely infected by a Trojan, which is then controlled by government agencies through command and control servers. A computer can be infected via false update notifications of software, malicious emails or through physical access to a machine. Finfisher also offers technology to infect an entire Internet cafe in order to survey all possible users. When installed, it is almost impossible to safely remove the Trojan. Also, there are no safe ways to circumvent Finfisher on an infected machine.”

The spyware, FinSpy is essentially a malware and once the computers are infected,  it allows widespread access to computer records, including extracting files from hard drives, grabbing images of computer screens, full Skype monitoring, logging keystrokes and monitoring email and chat communications.  In normal scenario any malware has to be infected but in this case, the government themselves are creating the backdoor by installing this malware without the knowledge of the end user, the citizen of that country.

Another source added that,

“FinFisher malware is installed in various ways, including fake software updates, emails with fake attachments, and security flaws in popular software. Sometimes the surveillance suite is installed after the target accepts installation of a fake update to commonly used software. Code which will install the malware has also been detected in emails. The software, which is designed to evade detection by antivirus software, has versions which work on mobile phones of all major brands.”

These are the countries who bought the FinSpy software from Gamma international

Australia (New South Wales Police)  : The NSW government reportedly paid 2 million USD to buy this software. It was used by the NSW police to spy on NSW citizens using a special type of covert search warrant.  This search warrant is not disclosed to the intended victim and is obtained from an “eligible judge” of the supreme court.

South Africa : South Africa reportedly paid €2,021,400 to Gamma International to implement this software to spy on South African dissidents.

Pakistan : Pakistan reported purchased all the three versions from Gamma International.  The FinSpy for €396,900, FinFly USB  software for €4620 and the FinIntrusion Kit €30600.  In total it paid around €432000 to spy on its citizens. The software was probably used to spy on the political opponents of the ruling regime.

Qatar : The Kingdom of Qatar is perhaps a the biggest customer of Gamma International after South Africa and has been using FinSpy and its versions since 2011.  It has paid upto € 1.790,580 to Gamma International to spy persons whom Qataris ruling junta considers problematic.

Bahrain : The adjoining Kingdom of Bahrain is not far behind Qatar in spying on Bahrainis.  It purchased the FinSpy and its ancillary software for € 855,660.

Mongolia : This landlocked country has also been at the forefront of spying on its citizens.  It bought € 1,346,460 worth of spying software from Gamma when 22.4% of its population lives on less than US$1.25 a day. 

Vietnam : Ruled by a communist regime Vietnam spent € 805,200 buying the mobile version of the software called FinSpy mobile mostly to spy on political dissidents.

Nigeria : Nigeria, an impoverished African country which has been fighting a bloody war against Boko Haram had spent  € 700,000 for buying this software to spy on its citizens.

Bangladesh : This South Asian country is also a customer of Gamma International.  Bangladeshi Government spent nearly  € 850,000 on FinSpy to spy on the main opposition parties by the ruling regime.

European nations like Italy, Slovakia, Belgium, Hungary and Bosnia are also prominent buyers of this malware.  Together they spent  € 500,000 to spy on their private citizens who were mostly journalists, political opponents and dissidents.

Netherlands police force,  Korps landelijke politiediensten or KLPD as its called, is also a buyer of this software since 2012. It has spent € 2,300,000 to keep tabs on the Dutch citizens.

Singapore : The Singapore company which is said to have purchased the products is apparently PCS Security Pte Ltd, which was incorporated in 1998, and headed by five Singaporeans.

The full customer lists are published by Wikileaks here

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Vijay Prabhu

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. ― Mahatma Gandhi 

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