The Surveillance Catalog: Where governments get their tools

Very cool story in the WSJ Weekend Edition – “The Surveillance Catalog: Where governments get their tools“. The WSJ obtained marketing materials for shrink-wrap surveillance tools from a secretive surveillance tradeshow held near Washington, D.C. The market for such tools has shot from “nearly zero” before the 9/11 attacks to about $5 billion a year now.

It describes such products as Hacking Team’s “Remote Control System” that “bypasses protection systems such as antivirus, antispyware, and personal firewalls”, OnPath Technologies’ Lawful Intercept, to the Gamma Group’s FINFisher Remote Monitoring & Infection Solutions that is used to “remotely infect targets that visited government offensive websites by covertly injecting the FinFly web code into the targeted websites”.

I don’t think these are technologies we did not know could exist, but it’s very sobering to see them in marketing slicks for off-the-shelf products and services.

One vendor executive acknowledge their products could be misused by dictatorships and oppressive regimes: “This is the dilemma. It’s like a knife. You can always cut vegetables but you can also kill your neighbor.” It is a   “a constant moral, ethical dilemma we have.”