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How Spyware Reaches Oppressive Governments 109

Posted by timothy
from the appointment-and-business-card dept.
New submitter blando writes "Between February and March of 2011, at the height of Egypt's tumultuous revolution, protesters stormed the offices of their feared State Security Investigations Service in Alexandria and Sixth of October city, on the edge of Cairo. It was there, amongst evidence of detentions, torture and surveillance at SSIS's headquarters, that information first came to light regarding a sales pitch by UK-based Gamma Group to Egypt's security agency for their FinFisher spyware."
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How Spyware Reaches Oppressive Governments

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  • Another revolution is going to happen in Egypt?
    • Nah, they've had it already. One election and done. MB in charge, with no further need for those pesky campaigns or democracy. Just pure Islamic jurisprudence from now on. They're already replacing America with China is the main foreign sponsor [globalpost.com] as they don't like the strings that come with American foreign aid (i.e. "bribes"). Whatayagonna do? The people apparently genuinely support the MB.
      • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @11:47PM (#41285101) Homepage Journal

        It's a depressing fact that oppressed people rise up against their oppressors, only to show that what they really wanted was just what the former rulers wanted: to oppress others.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
          That's pretty much how history works. Anytime that doesn't happen is special and different.
        • It's a depressing fact that oppressed people rise up against their oppressors, only to show that what they really wanted was just what the former rulers wanted: to oppress others.

          When I heard news on the radio about the Egyptian elections, I was utterly baffled why they had elected Morrissey as their new President; I thought they must have taken a turn from oppression to depression.

          Then I saw the headlines -- "Oh, Morsi , not Morrissey. Muslim Brotherhood, not Emo. That makes more sense."

          :-P

      • Except no one really believes the MB is in charge.

        • by BlueStrat (756137)

          Except no one really believes the MB is in charge.

          Well, except for the MB and the Egyptians, that is.

          But what do they know, right?

          Strat

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It was there, amongst evidence of detentions, torture and surveillance at SSIS's headquarters, that information first came to light regarding a sales pitch by UK-based Gamma Group to Egypt's security agency for their FinFisher spyware.

    So what you're saying is that companies should adopt the same ethics as the reading audience and allow or deny selling based upon that?

    • by tqk (413719) <s.keeling@mail.com> on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:01AM (#41285345)

      So what you're saying is that companies should adopt the same ethics as the reading audience ...

      How about we individuals adopt the same valueless ethics in our dealings with them for as long as it takes us to take them down? We can then go back to treating other individuals with the respect they deserve. Whatever works? It's basic game theory. I'll treat you like !@#$ until you stop treating me like !@#$, ...

      • by Gavagai80 (1275204) on Monday September 10, 2012 @06:47AM (#41286311) Homepage
        The "I'll treat you like !@#$ until you stop treating me like !@#$" theory of life simply results in a whole lot more !@#$, most of it heaped on those who weren't offenders but are presumed guilty due to being part of the same group (i.e. companies or corporations), who in turn are jaded into heaving more !@#$ back at everyone.
        • by tqk (413719)

          The "I'll treat you like !@#$ until you stop treating me like !@#$" theory of life simply results in a whole lot more !@#$ ...

          No it doesn't. The theory is:

          i) First chance, treat them nice.
          ii) If they treat you shitilly back, treat them shitilly back.
          iii) In theory, they get sick of being treated shitilly at which point they treat you nice, at which point you treat them nice.

          That Russian dog figured this out (Cf. Pavlov). Humans ought to be able to too. Yeah, that's kind of tangential, but it sounds nice.

          But really, "I'll treat you like !@#$ until you stop treating me like !@#$" makes more sense than anything I've ever seen.

          O

  • How Spyware Reaches Oppressive Governments

    It reaches them like software reaches anyone else.
    (1) The source code is available.
    (2) They buy the software.
    (3) They pirate the software.

    If (2) is not an option then they will go with (3) just like they do with any other piece of software.

    Have sanctions and embargoes worked against such regimes? The ordinary person on the street may suffer from them but are these governments truly denied the things they want?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The idea of such sanctions is technically the bleed the populance dry to the point where they uprise against the regime, we see how well that worked in North Korea.

  • the fruits of your labors are made possible by, and are protected by, a certain set of ideals

    it should not be legal that you be engaged in a business which actively undermines those ideals

    you should have your business punished, fined, shut down, or, at best, you, asshole, should have to relocate your business to the kind of country that would use your products against you. if they don't like that idea, maybe they shouldn't be pedaling their products to tyrants

    there is a line, that any company will face, when engaging in business in foreign lands with bad attitudes about fundamental human freedoms

    if you cross that line, i, and others in your home country, will not forget it, and will not let you get off the hook for your championing of profits over principles that made your riches possible in the first place

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      cute, now what are you going to actually do about it?

      yea ... thought so

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ... the fruits of your labors are made possible by, and are protected by, a certain set of ideals ... it should not be legal that you be engaged in a business which actively undermines those ideals ... principles that made your riches possible in the first place

      The ideals and principles that made the British wealthy were to oppress and exploit places like Egypt. So this particular British company seems to be perfectly aligned with those principles.

      • some day, certain loudmouthed useless assholes will learn to judge nations as they currently behave, not as they behaved in ancient colonial or cold war history

        let's put it this way: in the era of the british empire, whatever nation you are proud of, was doing nasty things you should be ashamed of. i know this for a certainty, because there exists no nation on this planet without a black stain on its past

        therefore, randomly picking a dark era and judging a country entirely from that just makes you a useless asshole. because on the measure of a nation's past nasty behavior, all nations suck in this world

        how about what the british actually think today, and their actual policy today? how about judging them on that?

        i know: crazy, wacky idea

        • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:20AM (#41285219)

          how about what the british actually think today, and their actual policy today? how about judging them on that?

          For the same reason I never forget anything you've ever screwed up: It comes in handy when there's a fight and you need to lose. Granted, it's a dysfunctional way of doing things, but it's popularity remains unchallenged. If the British pipe up and say "Oi there, over there in the colonies, you sure ronnied that bit up!" we can just shout back "yeah, how's Palestine working out for you?" See? No different than a couple arguing... each side loads up on ammo, and blasts at the other until nobody, not even the participants has a clue what's going on. It's a convenient way of maintaining the status quo -- neither side loses face, and anyone with an emotional interest in the outcome will bury themselves in the rhetoric until exhausted. Problem solved.

        • Not to mention a lot of countries don't do (nasty deed x overseas) not because they are somehow morally superior to a big country but simply because they were never a major power. It's easier to say, "if I was in power, I would never EVER do X" than to actually not do X if you have power.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Actually,

      Why are companies immune to prosecution for this? The "botnet controller" gets prison time, Why doesn't "Finwhatever" get jail time - I don't see a difference between the two. They install the software without the permission and understanding of the owner and communicate for their own purposes. I mean, if a company installs this software on all of their computers, fine. But if an individual finds this software on their personal system, then the executive of the software company should be liable to

  • IBM and Nazi Germany (Score:5, Informative)

    by drkim (1559875) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @11:39PM (#41285069)

    This has been going on for decades.

    IBM assisted the Nazi Holocaust by providing the card reading/sorting technology which Nazi Germany used to locate and kill the ethnicities that the Germans wanted wiped out. (Jews, Gypsies, Catholics, etc.) "IBM's German subsidiary (was) known as Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft"

    The actual punch card code for each concentration camp were:
    Auschwitz — 001; Buchenwald — 002; Dachau — 003; Flossenbürg — 004; Gross-Rosen — 005; Herzogenbusch — 006; Mauthausen — 007; Natzweiler — 008; Neuengamme — 009; Ravensbrück — 010; Sachsenhausen — 011; and Stutthoff — 012.

    • by mug funky (910186)

      i've heard this.

      one thing i've noticed in business, is you are seldom asked by a supplier what you would like the equipment for.

      given it took a computer far more sophisticated than IBM's efforts at the time (and Alan Turing himself) to reveal just what the Godwins were doing, one could find a doubt that IBM could be given the benefit of.

      just saying - i haven't researched the topic in depth, just seen it referred to in a documentary.

      • by Formalin (1945560)

        Just vague recollection here, but I seem to recall the german subsidiary solely designed it for this task. How much IBM proper knew, I'm not sure.

        This type of profiteering is so common during war... Sweden sent bearings and the like to Britain, while at the same time shipping iron ore to Germany for their tanks, for example. No shame, I guess.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:37AM (#41285281)

          Just vague recollection here, but I seem to recall the german subsidiary solely designed it for this task.

          I think the opposite is true. The technology in question was developed for the US Census. Germany wanted such equipment for its own census. A census is a quite legitimate thing for a government to undertake. That this census information was useful in locating jews was tragic, but it seems a misuse of the data.

          From the wiki article the GP cites: "Richard Bernstein, writing for The New York Times Book Review, wrote that Black's case "is long and heavily documented, and yet he does not demonstrate that IBM bears some unique or decisive responsibility for the evil that was done."

        • by drkim (1559875)

          How much IBM proper knew, I'm not sure.

          Good point. Even some German companies didn't know what their stuff was being used for...

          Thomas Watson (chairman and CEO) actually went to Germany in 1933 to assist on the deal. We will probably never know how much IBM knew.

    • by guruevi (827432) <evi AT smokingcube DOT be> on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:25AM (#41285243) Homepage

      But that goes in all directions. Germans were killed using German-made guns and ammo, Americans were killed by Germans using American-made guns and ammo. As a matter of fact, most of the companies that are still around today had some kind of hand in the atrocities of WWII (which was on all sides, concentration camps were in the UK, US, Japan, Russia as well as Germany). Just to throw some names around who were on all sides: Krupp (sold weapons on both sides), IBM, Kodak, Hugo Boss (clothiers), JPMorgan, Chase, Goldman Sachs, Ford, Bayer, Iveco (truck manufacturer, delivered portable gas chambers), Coca-Cola, Standard Oil, Boeing, Mitsubishi.

      In the end, the only people benefiting from war are the corporations that sell the goods.

      • by mirix (1649853)

        IBM made small arms for the American side. M1 carbines, IIRC... among other things.

        If the nazis did one thing right, partnering with hugo boss might have been it. As much as I hate fascists, I have to admit that the black SS uniforms looked pretty sharp.

        But yeah, war is a racket. Even the cold war, 'humanitarian missions' and non-war are big money for the military industrial complex. Wonder what sort of ROI they get on their lobby dollars.
        Quite the setup... Unless of course, you're the taxpayer footing the

        • by drkim (1559875)

          IBM made small arms for the American side. M1 carbines, IIRC... among other things.

          If the nazis did one thing right, partnering with hugo boss might have been it. As much as I hate fascists, I have to admit that the black SS uniforms looked pretty sharp.

          But yeah, war is a racket. Even the cold war, 'humanitarian missions' and non-war are big money for the military industrial complex. Wonder what sort of ROI they get on their lobby dollars.
          Quite the setup... Unless of course, you're the taxpayer footing the bill.

          Great post. Of course, this went on constantly in almost every conflict. During WWII we were selling scrap metal to Japan.

          My point was only about how technology and tyrants have been in bed from the beginning.

          Great reference to "War Is A Racket." For those of you who've never read it, it's a brilliant skewering of the military industrial complex, before the term even existed.

          Written by a U.S. Marine Corps Major General, who received the Medal of Honor twice, and the only man to be awarded the Brevet Medal

      • "concentration camps were in the UK, US, Japan, Russia as well as Germany"

        uh... the germans had extermination camps for the purpose of mass murder of millions. other countries had internment camps. small difference (as in, a sarcastic way of saying really fucking huge difference)

        i'm not excusing the usa's treatment of japanese americans, for example. but i am saying equating camps like those in the same breath with germany's killing machine is pretty lame. the germans were purposefully engaged in the system

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Anyone whose used IBM kit knows that actually they were trying to HINDER Nazi Germany by slowing down the efficient Germans with business speak and Business Process Gurus.

      They almost succeeded too, if only they'd held that last six sigma analysis pre-meeting agenda discussion review, they'd have made it through the war!

      Have you ever heard of any project IBM has been involved in, that actually HELPED the customer???? ...QED.

    • by guttentag (313541) on Monday September 10, 2012 @02:09AM (#41285501) Journal
      The Hollerith Machine [jewishvirtuallibrary.org] was developed for the task of processing the massive amounts of data for the census in the United States. It was the only solution in the world that could handle the job. Decades later, Germany was using these machines for its own census. Most of the data the Nazis compiled with IBM's technology was between 1934 and 1939. While the Nazis were collecting this information to track "undesirables," IBM was so proud of itself it had a plaque affixed [ibm.com] to greet visitors to its Madison Ave (NY) headquarters in 1938 which read: WORLD PEACE THROUGH WORLD TRADE.
      • In hindsight, it's easy to see what they were doing was wrong. At the time, not so much.

        Here, it would have been easy to see it is wrong before they did it.

        When Putin started seizing control of the newly-free media, he hired a US firm to manage them. Another proud moment.

    • by moeinvt (851793)

      The Dachau concentration camp in Germany was created in 1933 whereas Auschwitz in occupied Poland was not built until 1941.

      How did the Germans know in advance that Dachau should be given code '003' to leave room for two camp names that preceded it based on alphabetical order?

    • by smugfunt (8972)

      (Jews, Gypsies, Catholics, etc.)

      Not Catholics. Most Nazis were Catholics, at least nominally. You're probably thinking of Jehova's Witnesses.

      • by drkim (1559875)

        It gets confusing...

        Hitler himself claimed to be a good Catholic, but just at Dachau they had almost 2,600 Catholic priests, deacons, and bishops imprisoned then killed.

        Overall they killed Jews (6,200,000), Poles (2,000,000), the disabled (including children) (250,000), Ukrainian children (8,000), Slavs (25,000), Gays (15,000), Romani (1,500,000), blacks (25,000), pacifists, Belarus (1,670,000), Communists, Soviet POWs (3,000,000), U.S. POWs (2,038), Catholic priests, monks, nuns, lay brothers and seminaria

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