WikiLeaks has released updated information about FinFisher, the software used by governments to conduct surveillance on citizens. The leak hopes that the information will help researchers uncover human rights abuses that happens with the software; although some critics are calling the public release an extremely short sighted and reckless move.
FinFisher is a malware that seeks to syphon information off systems it infects. Built by a German company known as Gamma Group International, it was first discovered from the offices of Egypt’s secret police when former President Hosni Mubarak was deposed. Mubarak’s reign was marked by many breaches of human rights, and he was eventually brought down during the Arab Spring uprising.
According to the leaks, FinFisher customers include law enforcement and government agencies in Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa and Vietnam.
Access to the software should be able to allow security firms to understand how it works and detect when FinFisher is installed on a system. This should, in theory, prevent its capability to spy on individuals or organisations.
However, as ZDnet points out, this also provides criminal elements with access to the files; providing them with advanced surveillance malware. This could allow hackers, organised crime, and terrorists organisations to also spy on the unsuspecting public; making it easier to steal passwords and other information.
Conversely, the UK’s Guardian is reporting that researchers and activists are seeing the revelation of the files as a positive occurrence as it provides insight on how governments secretly spy on their citizens. They note that this will bring greater transparency to the process involved and will go on to allow individuals to hold the governments and companies who make the software responsible for any future breaches of privacy.