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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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  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:07AM (#41284963) Journal

    I dunno if Stalin did said the following or not, nevertheless, it does sound valid for this case

    Stalin once said: " A Capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with. "

    The creation of spyware and the selling that spyware to governments will only end up with all people in all countries being denied their basic human rights - including England, where the maker of the spyware, the Gamma Group, originated from
     

  • 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

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:30AM (#41285037)

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

    yea ... thought so

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:36AM (#41285057)

    ... 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 Evtim (1022085) on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:46AM (#41285097)

    Don't want to be obnoxious or flaming, but isn't "putting profit over all else" the very foundation of the free market capitalism? Why this behavior surprises anyone is beyond me...

  • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Monday September 10, 2012 @12:47AM (#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.

  • by Formalin (1945560) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:03AM (#41285165)

    The rich took over the govn't, and then voted to quit taxing themselves and their interests. They even voted to bail out their companies on the backs of middle class citizens. Is that what you are referring to?

    Because it sounds to me like you are implying social programs are bleeding us dry, which is a joke. Drop in the bucket.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:20AM (#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.

  • So which "home country" should a multinational corporation be beholden to?

    the proper question in today's world is what multinational corporation should your home country be beholden to?

    i say this with sadness, not snark

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @01:35AM (#41285271)

    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.

  • by artor3 (1344997) on Monday September 10, 2012 @02:16AM (#41285385)

    "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority, he said, always vote for the candidate promising the most benefits from the treasury with the result that democracy always collpases over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship."

    This inevitable outcome sure seems to take a long time in coming. The US has been a democracy for over 200 years, the UK for over 300. Both are still going quite strong, and are nowhere near collapse and dictatorship. Heck, the Iroquois Nations were a democracy for something like 800 years up until the Brits and the French and the Dutch showed up and ruined things.

    As it turns out, the mere fact that a given quote is oft repeated doesn't make it true.

  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Monday September 10, 2012 @02:50AM (#41285457) Homepage
    That's pretty much how history works. Anytime that doesn't happen is special and different.
  • by Okian Warrior (537106) on Monday September 10, 2012 @03:14AM (#41285513) Homepage Journal

    Don't want to be obnoxious or flaming, but isn't "putting profit over all else" the very foundation of the free market capitalism? Why this behavior surprises anyone is beyond me...

    Yes, "profit over all else" is one of the cornerstones of free market capitalism, but you have to remember that capitalism is neither good nor evil.

    For the situation at hand, it would appear that, at the time Gamma Group made the sales pitch:

    1) There was a possibility of short-term profit
    2) There was a fair likelihood that the sale would not be discovered
    3) If discovered, there was a fair likelihood that it would be so far in the future that the persons responsible would be unaccountable
    4) Well-connected companies tend to get lenient, slap-on-the-wrist penalties anyway

    It is not capitalism per-se which is the problem here, it is items 2 through 4 which allows capitalism to be used for immoral ends. If we really value morality over profit, then we should strongly discourage immoral acts which use capitalism as a tool.

    We don't. Blaming capitalism is avoiding the real issue, which is that morality is more important than capitalism (or rather, it should be).

    It's like the old adage - any technology can be used for both good or evil.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 10, 2012 @04:50AM (#41285797)

    "capitalism is neither good nor evil." says the capitalist who wishes to keep sleeping at night without having to even think about the effect of his/her way of life on his fellow man and the planet as a whole.

    Everything from the consumption of resources to the concentration of wealth is both inequitable and distorting of politics and world trade to the detriment of every country and individual in those countries that happen to not be at the top of the chain.

    You view the capitalism as it stands is not evil either means you are at the top or the crumbs that fall from the table of those that are have left you smug and contented and intentionally blinkered, (just like me.)

  • by CadentOrange (2429626) on Monday September 10, 2012 @05:05AM (#41285843)
    Putting profit over all else isn't necessarily evil.

    The problem is that those pursuing profits tend to operate a greedy algorithm [wikipedia.org]. They're constantly chasing after short term goals (local optima) at the expense of long term benefits (global optima). You see this at every level of government & corporations where they chase quarterly targets without ever considering that something that might be hugely beneficial in the future may cause pain in the short term.

    It's a sad state of affairs when we've spent decades formulating non-greedy algorithms in machine learning when the real world is full of people who operate in a greedy manner. If you ever needed evidence that humanity is doomed come the robot revolution ...

  • by khallow (566160) on Monday September 10, 2012 @07:52AM (#41286339)

    "capitalism is neither good nor evil." says the capitalist who wishes to keep sleeping at night without having to even think about the effect of his/her way of life on his fellow man and the planet as a whole.

    And that capitalist is right. Let us not forget that the bullshit about holistic thinking is another pseudo-moralistic gimmick. It's an easy way to introduce fairly unprovable statements into an argument.

    But it's worth noting that when one actually attempts the exercise, one sees that the rest of the world has seen a remarkable rise in standard of living and wealth, not just for their wealth, but for the rest as well. Capitalism and global trade are far more likely to be responsible for that.

    Everything from the consumption of resources to the concentration of wealth is both inequitable and distorting of politics and world trade to the detriment of every country and individual in those countries that happen to not be at the top of the chain.

    To the contrary. A lot of those effects from those who claim to be "fixing" capitalism. If there's a lot of regulation, then the big company that can navigate the regulation (say by have a huge legal staff for doing so) and bribe the right people, is going to fare better than the small company that can't.

    Distorting politics and world trade? There's a ton of single issue voters out there doing a far better job of political distortion than any bribe. Distorting world trade? That's a traditionally anti-free market job.

    You view the capitalism as it stands is not evil either means you are at the top or the crumbs that fall from the table of those that are have left you smug and contented and intentionally blinkered, (just like me.)

    And the traditional whining about crumbs from tables. Until you can make those "crumbs" yourself, you'll always be subservient to those who can. It doesn't help your case that all those attempts to regulate and constrain businesses also make it harder to make your own "crumb".

    Frankly, I think this is a disease that is mostly a result of the attempted cure rather than of capitalism.

  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday September 10, 2012 @09:37AM (#41286971)

    But it's worth noting that when one actually attempts the exercise, one sees that the rest of the world has seen a remarkable rise in standard of living and wealth, not just for their wealth, but for the rest as well. Capitalism and global trade are far more likely to be responsible for that.

    You must be referring to the way that capitalism led to a cure for polio. Except that it did not, and Jonas Salk gave the cure away to improve the world. In fact, the improvements in standards of living around the world have more to do with the hard work of scientists and engineers than with capitalism.

    No, capitalism did not pay for that research; capitalism is bad at paying for long-term projects that have no clear or immediate profitability. Most of the major scientific breakthroughs that have really improved the standard of living in the world -- cures for diseases, better ways to grow food, etc. -- were paid for either with tax money or with some private endowment/gift money.

    A lot of those effects from those who claim to be "fixing" capitalism.

    No, those are the effects of unregulated capitalism. Unless you think that everyone is equally ruthless, intelligent, educated, and that they have equal amounts of capital, the "little guy" is going to be crushed by the "big guys" in an unregulated market. That is why, every so often, we break up monopolies (though lately we seem to be forgetting to do that): so that we can reset the market and start the competition again.

    If there's a lot of regulation, then the big company that can navigate the regulation (say by have a huge legal staff for doing so) and bribe the right people, is going to fare better than the small company that can't.

    If there is no regulation, the big company will crush the little company by selling its products/services at a loss until the little company has no customers left. The big company will also offer grossly inflated salaries to the most intelligent people at the little company. The big company will make deals with other big companies, to lock the little company out of the market.

    That is what happens when one player has vastly more capital than the rest.

    Until you can make those "crumbs" yourself, you'll always be subservient to those who can

    That's funny, because in capitalism, the people who bake the bread are usually subservient to the people who own the oven. The winners in capitalism are those with capital, not the scientists and engineers who solve societies problems and not the workers who put those solutions into action.

    Frankly, I think this is a disease that is mostly a result of the attempted cure rather than of capitalism.

    Meanwhile, in the real world, the regulations we placed on businesses stopped child laborers from being killed and maimed, gave smaller, more innovative businesses an opportunity to compete, and raised our standard of living.

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