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Hacking Team exposed, defends indefensible position

This article was been published more than 6months ago. The information contained herein may be outdated.

In July, a massive data breach was announced, wherein all of Hacking Teams “…e-mails, files, and source code…” were published online. The data dump contained some 400 GB of (what is alleged to be) internal e-mails, invoices, and source code, also TK

Before I go any further, in case you haven’t heard of Hacking Team before, here is what Wikipedia has to say about them:

Hacking Team is a Milan-based information technology company that sells offensive intrusion and surveillance capabilities to governments, law enforcement agencies and corporations.

I learned of the breach in a recent episode of the podcast Reply All, where they, somewhat surprisingly, actually got to interview someone representing Hacking Team, Eric Rabe, their spokesman, who had this to say:

…the US sells F15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia as a backbone of their air force and I think It’s generally considered to be an ally of the west and furthermore I think in a country like that you could argue that there’s a real good reason to have the capabilities that we provide because those places have issues with terrorists who are developing their networks and setting up shop and they need to be dealt with…

…I understand that it’s never going to be satisfactory to a human rights activist group for me to say that and not let them come in and … maybe they’d like to sit in our operations center for a while or maybe every day but that’s not an option…

…I think if you were operating a police department you probably would want to be able to run your investigations without the oversight of human rights activists or journalists…

That begs the question of whether he believes what he says, or if he’s simply toeing the company line. In either case, the drivel he spouts falls flat with any audience that listens to what he says and thinks about it for even a second. The implied comparison of Hacking Team with police departments is an appeal to authority, wherein they claim that, since the police would not allow it, nor is there any reason that Hacking Team should.

The problem, of course, is that the comparison is one of apples to oranges. Police departments are run for public service, Hacking Team is run for profit. Police departments are subject to independent oversight, Hacking Team is not. I’m sure that there are a number of other differences as well, but those two alone give the lie to Hacking Team’s defence of what they are doing.

Had they been a company founded in solid morals and ethics, they wouldn’t have found themselves in this situation. As it is, they have lost a lot of credibility, and that is a good thing. We need less thuggish companies out there, not more.

In case you are interested, the data dump is available from several places, including WikiLeaks and Mega, as well as via BitTorrent.

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