Earlier tonight, David Vincenzetti (CEO of Italy’s Hacking Team), announced on Linkedin that “Hacking Team is dead. Definitely dead.” If you are asking who Hacking Team is, let’s just say there’s a good chance if you are a person of interest their software was used to intercept and spy on your communications.

For those not in the information security field, Hacking Team is globally known as the notorious company that sold surveillance technology to governments, any government, that paid them well. In 2015 it was revealed, thanks to WikiLeaks, that Kenya and Ethiopia had approached Hacking Team to buy their surveillance technology to spy allegedly on citizens of interest, especially journalists.

This raised many eyebrows regarding the extent to which Hacking Team was willing to go to sell its solutions, without any consideration for laws or ethics. On the other hand, it also revealed how some African countries governments’ are willing to abuse privacy laws by spying on citizens.

Encryption, decryption, and interception of communications have been around for as long as humans have been around. For example, during World War 2, the British, through their intelligence agency MI5, used carrier pigeons to deliver encrypted messages. It didn't take long for the Germans to figure this out. So they trained hawks and falcons to attack any pigeon that looked like it was delivering a message. 📷 Ursula, a trained peregrine falcon, swoops on a pigeon in June 1945 (left) and Captain Caiger of the British Army Pigeon Service holds a carrier pigeon equipped with a 'back carrier' message capsule (right) (Getty Images)

Now, I mention this because it is easy to frown upon the work that Hacking Team does, but it is important to highlight that the problem is not the actual technology but who they sell it to and how it ends up getting used. We need companies like Hacking Team and other hackers to test systems, to break systems, and to ensure that they cannot be bypassed.

This is something I extensively discussed with Higinio “w0rmer” Ochoa and ex-Anonymous hacker who ended up being arrested by the FBI but now works as one of the best information security consultants in the USA.

David Vincenzetti's message on Linkedin.

Having said that, I do not believe Hacking Team is dead as Vincenzetti announced. I tend to agree with what another friend and colleague in the ICT industry said:

“Their work still has value, so likely purchased by some larger player, shuffled a bit, rebranded. What Hacking Team does won’t stop until we MAKE it stop. And I’m not sure we have the political will to do that.” - Neal Rauhauser

The type of business they were in, selling surveillance technology to governments, was just too lucrative. However, they have been attracting the wrong type of attention in recent years.

Let’s just hope that no other African governments are working with them.

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