Cyberwar Season 1 – Episode 3: Cyber Mercenaries

Authoritarian regimes are using spyware tools bought from private companies in the West. Hacker PhineasFisher targeted these companies to reveal their deals to suppress dissent.

Hey everyone I am on the third episode of “Cyberwar” hosted by Ben Makuch (@BMakuch) a national security reporter that travels the world to meet with hackers, government officials, and dissidents to investigate the ecosystem of cyberwarfare. They have been really entertaining and educational about the events and issues in information security and digital privacy on a global level.

Episode 1 looked at Anonymous

Episode 2 looked at The Sony Hack

In episode 3, Ben explored the world of commercial spyware tools. In his report, he discovered many governments using spyware tools on criminals but alarming he discovered repressive regimes using it to spy on their opposition. One such example stemmed from an incident that occurred to Mesay Mekonnen, an exiled Ethiopian Journalist from ESAT living in the America. Mekonnen received a skype friend request with the ESAT logo, once he accepted the friend request, it soon followed with a PDF file. Mokonnen then attempted to open the PDF file and systems reacted unfavorably and infected his computer. Upon investigation, the internet address pointed to a company called “Hacking Team” as well as an internet address in Ethiopia.

Ron Deibert, Director of Citizen Lab stated, “Surveillance in of itself is not a bad thing, the question is what is that surveillance for and are there proper checks and balances around it?”.

Ben spoke to Eric Rabe of “Hacking Team” about the incident and their practices where he discussed there is a use for their tool to aid law enforcement and that Hack Team is not responsible for human right abuses that occur from using their tool.

A hacker named PhineasFisher did not agree with Hacking Team’s practice and hacked their servers showing client lists and many information which showed some bad business judgment. Interesting enough it was also discovered a number of companies supplying Hacking Team with 0-days to hack companies.

Overall, this was another great episode into the world of commercial spyware and the push to get it regulated.

You can view the episode here or at the full link provided:

Also, on YouTube:

How do you feel about this episode and the topic? Please share your thoughts.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.