Hacking Team In Trouble Again — Banned From Selling Outside Of Europe
April 6, 2016
Shah Sheikh (1294 articles)

Hacking Team In Trouble Again — Banned From Selling Outside Of Europe

Less than a year after it was hacked, its emails leaked all over the Web, Milan-based government spyware creator Hacking Team TISI +% is facing fresh trouble. Not from another hacktivist, however, but an official authority, which has revoked the company’s license to sell outside of Europe. At the same time CEO David Vincenzetti is under investigation for some of the deals he has made on foreign soil.

That its global license has been revoked by the Italian Ministry of Economic Development (MISE) is significant, as Hacking Team was frequently lambasted by activists for selling its malware, officially called the Galileo Remote Control System, to nations with poor records on human rights. In particular, sales to Egypt, Ethiopia, Bahrain, Morocco, Uganda, Russia and Vietnam were criticised. In some cases, such as in Morocco, activists and journalists claimed to have been hacked by snoops using the Galileo tool. Hacking Team also signed big money contracts with the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), raking in nearly $2 million from both before the contracts were cancelled.

It’ll be a significant blow to Hacking Team’s business if the ban remains enforced. Just last week, a report emerged revealing it sold to nearly every South American country, whilst it does plenty of business in Africa and Asia.

Hacking Team spyware malware advert

Hacking Team advert claims it can help spy on targets all over a single country. It won’t be able to sell to any countries outside of Europe for the foreseeable future, however.

“The global license has been suspended by MISE but Hacking Team still has approvals for all countries within the EU, and the company expects to be given approvals for sales to countries outside the EU as well as needed,” Hacking Team spokesperson Eric Rabe told FORBES over email. “The investigation regarding David Vincenzetti seems to be a review of past sales, all of which were conducted in accordance with laws and regulations in place when the sales were made.”

Reports of more strife at Hacking Team first surfaced in Italy’s Il Fatto Quotidiano, which obtained a list of 46 countries in which the company could no longer sell “with immediate effect”. There’s little information on why the license has been removed, though the Italian publication suggested political tensions in countries such as Egypt, where Italian student Giulio Regeni was recently murdered and the government’s investigation heavily criticised, had been one motivation. Neither MISE nor prosecutors involved in the Hacking Team investigations were available for comment at the time of publication.

Though the leak was devastating, resulting in the open publication of Vincenzetti’s emails and other Hacking Team internals on Wikileaks, the company was soon up and operating again. The firm attended various conferences after the breach, including Milipol, one of the biggest counter-terror and home security expos in the world. Researchers also recently uncovered Apple Mac malware that appeared to be a Hacking Team creation.

Last year, Hacking Team filed its own legal complaints against six former employees, alleging they stole source code. One of those accused Alberto Pelliccione, who now heads up Maltese security firm Reaqta, believes his old paymaster was only out for revenge. That case is ongoing, FORBES understands.

Is this another nail in the coffin for Hacking Team, though? “Certainly they’ve lost support from the government, but they will try to sell the company before giving up,” Pelliccione added. “I’m learning that they can be quite resilient.”

Source | Forbes