Human rights group blasts Hacking Team

Human rights group blasts Hacking Team
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Human Rights Watch has accused the controversial surveillance firm Hacking Team of doing nothing to stop known abuses of its technology by the Ethiopian government.

Ethiopia’s government uses cyberattacks to keep news from its citizens, according to the human rights group. It says the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (EINSA), which has hacked into the computers of U.S.-based journalists, has been a Hacking Team client since 2011.


“The Hacking Team emails show that the company’s training and technology in Ethiopia directly contributed to human rights violations,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Despite multiple red flags, Hacking Team showed a striking lack of concern about how its business could damage dissenting and independent voices.”

The Hacking Team, which provides digital surveillance tools and support to governments, was hacked itself earlier this summer.

The breach showed that the Italian firm deals with countries that have poor human rights records. While the company has historically denied selling to repressive regimes, countries such as Sudan, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia were all listed as “active clients” in the data dump.

The leaked documents also revealed a multi-year relationship with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

The Italian firm claims that its customer policy calls for investigation “when questions about the proper use of our tools are raised either internally or come to our attention from outside the company.”

But a review by Human Rights Watch of the leaked documents found it did not do enough to investigate the EINSA.

“The company continued to train Ethiopian intelligence agents to hack into computers and negotiated additional contracts despite multiple reports that its services were being used to repress government critics and other independent voices,” Human Rights Watch said in a Thursday release.