The walls protecting individual privacy and obscurity from government and corporate surveillance become more transparent by the day—one could even say they have the visual consistency of glass.One phrase coined in Germany, Claudia Bracholdt of Quartz reports, was meant to illustrate a dystopian future much like that of Orwell’s 1984. The phrase, gläserner Bürger, or “the glass citizen,” has recently become more of a present reality than a future.
Case in point just look at those shadowy internet mercenaries who sell network and computer software “exploits” to any buyer willing to pay the right price. As of Wednesday, we know one of those buyers is the German government, thanks to leaked documents published on Netzpolitik.org
The [German] Federal Criminal Police Office has acquired, for the event a use is necessary, a commercial product of the company Eleman/Gamma. The software is highly sophisticated and can completely take over a variety of devices, including Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android, Symbian, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. A promotional video advertises the ability of “remote intrusion” via fake updates from mobile carriers and Internet providers.
Author of the Netzpolitik article Andre Meister goes on to surmise that the program is likely “Finfisher,” a ‘Zero Day’ product Eleman/Gamma sells to various governments to monitor the communications of activists.
Germany’s purchase of the program highlights the duplicity of government’s generally stated aim of cyber warfare programs, that is, to protect against enemies foreign and domestic. Though governments like the U.S. have been clamoring for rights and backdoors to access social media platforms and next-generation communication avenues, like FaceTime or Skype.
The use of spam email to gain access to a computer, even an activist’s computer, seems less than “official.” Official or not though, seeing these exploits coming from governments as well as malicious lone-wolf hackers has become the new normal.
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