Spyware for Arab despots: Germany’s latest source of shame

Wikileaks just keeps exposing the imperialist underside of western “democracy”. And one of the latest to be embarrassed by revelations is Germany — an unlikely player in the imperial game, seeing as it’s been officially out of it since World War II ended. But what used to be done overtly by governments has since been taken over covertly by private corporations. Der Spiegel chimes in on the same themes as the above documentary:

The Cyber Warfare Europe conference, held in Berlin in September, was another key event for the intelligence and surveillance community. A former officer with the US Marines conducted the event in a windowless conference room at the Marriott Hotel.

A new, alarming attempt to create total surveillance at the expense of freedom was on display in Berlin. Functionality of the products is a priority, but so too is marketability. They are sold to any ruler who can afford it, no matter who he declares to be an enemy of the state and how he treats such so-called enemies. The attendees in Berlin seemed enthusiastic about what they were seeing, which included the latest tools for hacking into the suspects’ computers. The providers of the software promise that they can even provide interested third parties with access to encrypted emails and telephone conversations.

Representatives of the Gamma Group, a conglomerate that owns two companies headquartered in a Munich office building, had their own booth at Cyber Warfare Europe. Gamma describes itself as a leader in the field of cyber surveillance. The current brochure on its flagship product, “FinFisher,” reads like an investigator’s wish list — and a nightmare for civil rights activists. The 41-page brochure describes spy software for all kinds of devices and electronic eavesdropping situations.

Gamma offers a product, for example, known as an “active password sniffer,” which is supposedly capable of hacking into password-protected data transmissions in online banking (SSL), as well as private, encrypted WLANs. A product called “FinSpy” is designed to facilitate live surveillance through webcams and microphones, download files without being detected, and even monitor Skype conversations and chats.

In its marketing videos, Gamma promises “full access to target systems,” that is, the computers and mobile phones of those to be spied on. Of course criminals, as well as real or alleged regime opponents, should not be aware that any of this is taking place. The spy programs are installed on their computers through such tools as “fake software updates.”

According to the videos, unsuspecting users download the spyware onto their devices when they update their Apple iTunes program or BlackBerry software. Once a BlackBerry, for example, has been infected, the originators of the “FinSpy Mobile” spyware can not only listen in on conversations and read text messages, but can also view contacts, photos, calendar entries and other files stored on the device — no matter where in the world the device is being used at any given moment. Apple has just closed the security loophole that was being used for this purpose with a real iTunes update.

This in turn has me wondering if I got “finfished”, since I have iTunes and am frequently being urged to update it. Every time I get the latest update, there’s a new one a week later! It’s exasperating, all this updating. I’m reluctant to do so if it still works all right as is. A new look, and a few extra bells and whistles, aren’t as attractive as some might like to think.

And if it can happen in Iran, in Bahrain, in Oman and who knows where else, who’s to say it can’t also happen in Germany…or Canada? We already know that there is immense corporate interest in spying on private individuals. We also know that the Harper Government™ likes to spy on and repress anyone who contradicts THEM. I wouldn’t put it past them to waste taxpayer dollars on this shit, any more than I would put it past an Arab despot — or a corporate dictator wanna-be.

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