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UK malware used against Bahraini activists

Deutsche Welle
Publication date: 
Ben Knight
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Eric King, head of research at UK organization Privacy International, where he runs the Big Brother Incorporated project, said he doesn't believe Gamma's malware was stolen.

"Gamma Group is one of the scariest surveillance companies that exists," he told DW. "They have no internal guidelines on who and where they sell their equipment to, beyond laws that are currently in place. Which sounds like a reasonable defense, apart from the fact that there are none. There are no laws at all that govern the export or sale of surveillance technology anywhere in the world.

"The first time that their product was discovered in Egypt, Gamma insisted that it was simply a trial, and the second time, over in Bahrain, they said all of a sudden that their technology had been stolen," King said. "It's getting more and more farcical."

King said it is impossible to verify whether Gamma is lying about the theft because ECAs do not keep records of surveillance software.

"Questions have been asked in the Houses of Parliament, and the British government is saying we don't know anything," he said. "Uncovering the contractual details between a highly secretive organization and what is effectively a foreign intelligence service usually ends up being a mammoth task. That's why Gamma Group is quite happily dismissing things and pointing people in the other direction."

For that reason, groups like Privacy International are lobbying for tighter regulation on surveillance technology. But in the meantime, King said, "Gamma Group, like a number of other companies that are currently peddling their wares to dictators, need to start talking honestly about their customers and coming clean about their business practices."