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NSA-grade surveillance software being sold to oppressive regimes, report finds

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Hacker (STOCK)
Hacker (STOCK)

Advocacy group Privacy International has put together an extensive report on the powerful surveillance technologies being sold by private companies. The findings, it says, are "downright scary" and show that private companies are capable of acquiring spying tools just as capable as what the NSA and GCHQ are using. The details have all been collected in a database called the Surveillance Industry Index, which details the offerings of over 300 companies from across the globe. Some of the technologies being sold include a Trojan that can turn on a webcam and capture photos, software for eavesdropping, and tools that can wiretap undersea cables.

The broader problem that Privacy International says these technologies speak to is that they often end up in the hands of oppressive regimes. "Usually, these are governments that have the will, but not the technological know-how, to monitor their communications infrastructure," writes Matt Rice, a research consultant at Privacy International. This also puts anyone whose data travels internationally — something that likely occurs often for most users without their knowledge — at risk of having their information snooped on as well. While attempts at surveillance should be of little surprise at this point, Privacy International's report suggests that the issue could be broader than it appears.