Hacker behind 2015 military contractor breach: 'Hopefully it can set them back a bit'

Hacker behind 2015 military contractor breach: 'Hopefully it can set them back a bit'
© Getty Images

The hacker that leaked source code and email accounts from the controversial militarized spyware vendor Hacking Team appeared in his first released filmed interview – as a puppet. 

Phineas Fisher – so known because he had breached a different manufacturer of militarized spyware whose product was named FinFisher months before the Hacking Team breach – agreed to the interview with Vice News Canada on the terms that he be depicted as “kermit the frog (or a homemade non-trademark violating puppet)” and have his answers read by a voice actor.  

ADVERTISEMENT

Hacking Team was particularly controversial because of its record with countries with poor human rights records. Its spyware was licensed by a number of oppressive regimes including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia and Bahrain and found on the computers of activists, journalists and other political targets. 

More legitimate clients included the U.S. Department of Defense.  

Phineas Fisher’s attack on Hacking Team forced the company to briefly pull its product. It has since returned to market, but with more oversight from its home nation of Italy, which had once granted it near universal license to ship to any country. 

“I don't really expect leaking data to stop a company. But hopefully it can at least set them back a bit and give some breathing room to the people being targeted with their software,” says Fisher in a clarity-edited transcript of the Vice interview.

The conversation then turns to Hacking Team’s past victims, some of which – a group of Ethiopian journalists who saw the program surreptitiously installed their computers – asked interviewer Ben Makuch to thank Fisher. 

“Cool,” says the hacker. “Kinda weird seeing my hacking addiction/hobby actually affecting people in the real world in a positive way.”