Hacking Team claims terrorists can now use its tools

Hacking Team has warned that a devastating data breach it suffered will allow its spying tools to be used by criminals and terrorists.

The Milan-based security company, which develops surveillance tools for mostly government clients, saw more than 400GB of internal data released on Sunday, including emails, clients lists, financial information and source code.

“Terrorists, extortionists and others can deploy this technology at will if they have the technical ability to do so,” wrote Hacking Team spokesman Eric Rabe in a news release on Wednesday. “We believe this is an extremely dangerous situation.”

Hacking Team’s flagship product is the Remote Control System (RCS), also known as Galileo. It is marketed to law enforcement and other government agencies as a tool that can stealthily intercept data on desktop computers and mobile devices.

The company’s claim, however, is worth questioning as it isn’t clear why someone would attempt to use software that’s been under extremely close scrutiny in recent days.

Rabe wrote that Hacking Team’s investigation showed that “that sufficient code was released to permit anyone to deploy the software against any target of their choice.”

Hacking Team somewhat undermined its claim as well. Rabe wrote that “we expect too that antivirus companies are upgrading their programs to detect the compromised RCS.”

Security researchers for years have been tracking deployments of RCS, alleging that Hacking Team sold it to governments with poor human rights records and documenting instances where activists have been spied on.

Analysts who’ve looked at the breach have found at least one zero-day vulnerability that was part of Hacking Team’s arsenal to get its software onto devices. That vulnerability, in Adobe Systems’ Flash player, has been patched.

It means that if other people tried to deploy Hacking Team’s software, they would to either need to trick people into installing it or use an exploit for another software vulnerability.

The breach hasn’t put Hacking Team out of business. Rabe wrote that its engineers are updating RCS to “allow clients to resume criminal and intelligence investigations.” Almost all of the company’s clients have suspended use of RCS now, he wrote.

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