Leaked Files: German Spy Company Helped Bahrain Hack Arab Spring Protesters

11/08/2014 14:11

Source: The Intercept

 

Photo credit: APPhoto credit: AP

A notorious surveillance technology company that helps governments around the world spy on their citizens sold software to Bahrain during that country’s brutal response to the Arab Spring movement, according to leaked internal documents posted this week on the internet.

The documents show that FinFisher, a German surveillance company, helped Bahrain install spyware on 77 computers, including those belonging to human rights lawyers and a now-jailed opposition leader, between 2010 and 2012—a period that includes Bahrain’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. FinFisher’s software gives remote spies total access to compromised computers. Some of the computers that were spied on appear to have been located in the United States and United Kingdom, according to a report from Bahrain Watch.

infection_data copy

A screengrab from leaked FinFisher data appears to show surveillance targets of the Bahraini government

Earlier this week, an anonymous hacker released 40 gigabytes of what appears to be internal data from FinFisher on Twitter and Reddit, including messages between people who appear to be Bahraini government officials and FinFisher customer service representatives.

In those messages, Bahraini software administrators complained to FinFisher that they were “losing targets daily” due to faults in its software. In one message employing the language of a frustrated consumer, a spy appeared to complain that he or she had to keep re-infecting a targeted computer, risking detection: “[W]e cant stay bugging and infecting the target every time since it is very sensitive. and we don’t want the target to reach to know that someone is infecting his PC or spying on him” one message reads.

On its website, FinFisher says it sells surveillance technology “exclusively to government law enforcement and intelligence agencies.” The company has previously denied reports that it sold spyware to Bahrain, claiming that examples researchers identified could have come from stolen or demonstration copies. The new documents, showing sustained correspondence between individuals in Bahrain and customer service, undercut that claim. FinFisher did not respond to requests for comment.



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