Monday, July 6, 2015
Posted By: Nomonanoto Sidama | At: 7/06/2015 09:24:00 AM
The cybersecurity firm Hacking Team appears to have itself been the victim of a hack, with documents that purport to show it sold software to repressive regimes being posted to the company’s own Twitter feed.
The Italy-based company offers security services to law enforcement and national security organisations. It offers legal offensive security services, using malware and vulnerabilities to gain access to target’s networks.
According to the documents, 400GB of which have been published, Hacking Team has also been working with numerous repressive governments – something it has previously explicitly denied doing. It has not been possible to independently verify the veracity of the documents.
The perpetrators of the apparent hack used the company’s own official Twitter feed (renamed to “Hacked Team”) to communicate. They continued to post to the feed for hours after, highlighting specific documents they claim come from the hack, such as emails, invoices, and even screenshots of Hacking Team employee’s computers, until the company regained control on Monday morning and removed the posts.
One such tweet, which has since been removed, purports to show Hacking Team negotiating with a third-party reseller to export its malware to Nigeria. If the sale took place, it may have bypassed Italian export controls. Another is claimed to show the company debating what to do after an independent investigation from the University of Toronto attacked it for selling hacking tools to Ethiopia, which then used it to target journalists in the US and elsewhere. The company has never publicly confirmed nor denied working with Ethopia, and in March this year a spokesman dismissed earlier reports as “based on some nicely presented suppositions”.
The company has repeatedly denied selling its technology to repressive regimes. In 2013, a Reporters Without Borders report which named Hacking Team as one of the “corporate enemies of the internet” for its position as a “digital mercenary” prompted a response from the firm. In a statement, it said that “Hacking Team goes to great lengths to assure that our software is not sold to governments that are blacklisted by the EU, the USA, Nato and similar international organisations or any ‘repressive’ regime.”
But, if genuine, the leaked documents suggest that among Hacking Teams clients are the governments and security services of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, many of whom have been criticised by international human rights organisations for their aggressive surveillance of citizens, activists and journalists both domestically and overseas.
Most notably, the documents include an invoice for €480,000 which purports to be from the Sudanese national intelligence service, dated June 2012. Three years later, in January 2015, the company told the UN’s Italian representative that it had no current business relations with the country, prompting the follow-up question “as to whether there have any previous business arrangements” with Sudan, the answer to which is not recorded.
A separate document contained in the apparent file dump appears to show Sudan, along with Russia, listed as “not officially supported”, as opposed to the “active” or “expired” status held by most other nation states.
The company describes itself as in the business of “providing tools to police organisations and other government agencies that can prevent crimes or terrorism”, but if the documents are genuine they suggest it may be willing to sell to non-state actors as well. One invoice apparently reveals the company dealing with a private Brazilian firm, YasNiTech, to whom it sold three months access to its remote access tool, allowing the firm to hack in to Android and Blackberry phones, and Windows devices. We do not know if this sale was part of a wider contract with the Brazilian government.
Hacking Team is one of a number of security firms which sell surveillance technology and malware to national governments, enabling them to access the computers of their targets. Gamma International, another firm in the same space which was best known for its FinFisher surveillance software, suffered a similar hack in 2014. In the 40GB of data on FinFisher leaked, the company’s clients, capabilities and pricing was revealed; according to the leaked documents, Hacking Team was celebrating the demise of “a wannabe competitor of ours”. The hacker behind the Gamma International hack has now claimed responsibilityfor the Hacking Team leak as well, according to Wired’s Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai.
Hacking Team refused to give comment over the phone, directing the Guardian to an email address. Multiple emails to that address and others given on the firm’s website were returned as undeliverable, and on a follow-up call, Hacking Team again declined to comment and directed the paper to the broken email address. When the Guardian explained that the email address was not working, Hacking Team declined to give an alternative address or any other form of contact.
Christian Pozzi, one of the firm’s employees, tweeted to say that the documents contained “false lies” about the services the company offers.
“A lot of what the attackers are claiming regarding our company is not true. Please stop spreading false lies about the services we offer,” Pozzi tweeted. “We are currently working closely with the police at the moment. I can’t comment about the recent breach.”
Pozzi’s feed was later itself hacked, and later still the entire account was deleted.
Privacy groups have welcomed a rare chance to potentially look inside the workings of a cyber-surveillance company such as Hacking Team. PrivacyInternational said in a statement that: “Yesterday’s leak of materials reportedly shows how Hacking Team assisted some of the world’s most repressive regimes - from Bahrain to Uzbekistan, Ethiopia to Sudan - to spy on their citizens.
“We know from investigations by Citizen Lab that these tools are used to target human rights activists and pro-democracy supporters at home and abroad.Surveillance companies like Hacking Team have shown they are incapable of responsibly regulating themselves, putting profit over ethics, time after time. Since surveillance companies continue to ignore their role in repression, democratic states must step in to halt their damaging business practices.”
Sunday, June 28, 2015
Posted By: Nomonanoto Sidama | At: 6/28/2015 04:21:00 AM
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Posted By: Nomonanoto Sidama | At: 6/24/2015 03:02:00 AM
Indian firms have a sprawling land empire abroad, especially in Ethiopia, as part of a move encouraged by different governments to safeguard the nation's food supply. But is the policy truly succeeding in helping feed over a billion Indians?
Erratic weather in India repeatedly causes a scare about low food stocks and rising inflation. As agricultural productivity in India has significantly come down, many Indians are looking to Africa, particularly Ethiopia, buying large tracts of agricultural land to safeguard food supply.
According to the global land monitoring agency Land Matrix, India is the biggest investor in land in Ethiopia, accounting for 70 per cent of the land acquired by foreigners since 2008.
Firms from India have acquired over 600,000 hectares of land in the country, which is more than 10 times the land acquired by the companies in India under the 2005 Special Economic Zones policy.
US policy think tank, the Oakland Group, says that Hyderabad-based Karaturi Global operates 300,000 hectares of land to grow palm oil, cereals and pulses, leasing the land for a mere 1.81 crore per year for 50 years.
Apart from these, S&P and Energy Solutions operate 50,000 hectares of prime land to grow biofuels and edible oils, leasing the land for 2.2 crore per year for 50 years.
According to the US think tank, BHO Agro PLC operates 27,000 hectares of land to grow cereals, pulses and edible oils, leasing the land for 93 lakh per year for 50 years.
Exports to India from Ethiopia are primarily vegetable products which jumped from $2.7 million to $28.5 million between 2006 and 2012.
Despite strategic holdings and the influx of food grains from those holdings, India topped the United Nations' 2015 World Hunger list surpassing China. This highlighted that despite the supply, problems persist with the delivery system, which cannot meet the basic needs of millions of Indians.
Posted By: Nomonanoto Sidama | At: 6/24/2015 02:46:00 AM
Summer break at SOS Children’s Villages is jam-packed with fun activities for children of all ages. It is a time where children can discover new talents, socialise and be active. We plan a range of summer activities from field trips to art lessons.
With July just around the corner, many SOS schools are starting to close for the summer. We take a look at how two Villages in Ethiopia –Makalle and Hawassa – are keeping busy this summer.
Cultural learning in Makalle, Ethiopia
Ethiopia is filled with many historical landmarks and natural wonders. At the Makalle Village (spelled Mek'ele in the local language), children 14 years and over have the chance to visit historical sites on their summer break. One ancient city they visit is Axum and its royal tomb.
Children of all ages visit numerous museums such as the Hawelti Museum, where the children learn about the royal history of Ethiopia.The children under 14 years old visit a local amusement park in Makalle, where they enjoy bumper cars, a Ferris wheel, horse riding, roller coasters and other amusement games. The children also travel to the Quiha Zoo.
Throughout the year, several festivals take place in northern Ethiopia. SOS Children makes a conscious effort for our children to participate in the festivals. Ashanda is one popular festival that takes place close to the Makalle Village. It is a colourful festival where women dress in traditional clothing known as ‘Tilf’ and their hair is weaved into a cornrow called ‘Kunano’. The crowd walks in a line down the main street in Makalle while drumming and singing traditional songs.
Fun in clubs in Hawassa, Ethiopia
At the Hawassa Village in Ethiopia, we try to keep the children as busy as possible through a range of enjoyable games and activities. Children have the option to join various clubs where they can develop new skills and talents. There is a football club where professional coaches teach the children how to play. There is also a scouts club where children learn about first aid, conservation and navigation.
The Village also travels to Lake Langano, a popular lake just north of the Village. Here, children participate in water sports, horse riding, nature walks, beach football, and have the chance to see a variety of birds, hippos, baboons and warthogs.
Passion for running
The children also participate in organised events. One special event is the Great Run Race which is organised by Ethiopian Olympic gold medallist, Haile Gebrselassie. This event encourages children to stay active. The children practise well in advance and stretch together on the big day.
Saron is one of the SOS children who has a passion for running. She explains that being able to participate in the Great Run Race is very important to her. Saron was awarded a medal after completing the 5k children’s race. “I was so excited when I crossed the finish line and received my medal from Haile Gebrselassie. When he gave me the medal he encouraged me to continue practising because I will be a famous athlete when I grow up,” says Saron.
Caring for the community
Aside from field trips and clubs, children at SOS Children’s Villages also have the chance to help their local community. At certain Villages, children have the option to volunteer a few hours of their summer in local projects such as environmental protection, litter clean up, beautification activities and offering their moral support at local hospitals.