Spying Tools Being Bought Secretly by DEA from an Italian Surveillance Firm

DEA has been a client of the controversial Italian surveillance tech firm Hacking Team since 2012 — DEA has bought spyware capable of intercepting all sorts of communication.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) firstly placed an order in August 2012 and has bought the software called Remote Control System/RCS.

This software can intercept telephone conversations, social media messages, text messages, collect passwords and secretly turn on the user’s webcam and microphone.

The deal and agreement terms between Hacking Team, an Italian tech firm, and the DEA has been recently disclosed.

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It informs that not just the FBI but DEA is also involved in hacking tactics, but the DEA has also purchased off-the-shelf malware, which can be used for spying on alleged criminals.

This revelation has arrived only a week after news about DEA’s secret program that collected phone records of millions of Americans for two decades was disclosed by USA Today. Actually this was the program that inspired NSA’s personalized version of bulk telephone data collection program.

This means the DEA is the pioneer of surveillance tactics instead of the NSA.

Mother Board states that it proves that tools and tactics that previously were linked with just the militia, intelligence agencies and cybercriminals are now commonly used by law enforcement.

Christopher Soghoian, surveillance tech expert says:

“Hacking software is yet another example of a technology created for the intelligence community that has secretly trickled down to law enforcement.”

About the efficiency and strength of this spyware Soghoian added: “we need a public debate over this invasive surveillance technology.”

The Contract:

Public records reveal that the deal was signed on August 20th, 2012. The total value of the contract was $2.4million. The Contract was signed by the DEA’s office of Investigative Technology and Cicom USA, a government contractor. This contract was exposed by a London-based Digital rights group called Privacy International and Motherboard. Records reveal that the contract was

slated to end in August 2015 and was identified as “Remote Controlled Host Based Interception System.”

Sources claim that this system is the same Remote Control System from Hacking Team, which is known as the Galileo. The firm markets this system as “the hacking suite for the governmental interception.”

In the company’s brochure, it is written that: “You cannot stop your targets from moving. How can you keep chasing them? What you need is a way to bypass encryption, collect relevant data out of any device, and keep monitoring your targets wherever they are, even outside your monitoring domain. Remote Control System does exactly that.”

On the other hand, Cicom USA is just a reseller for the Italian firm and a spyware-developer, which is already accused of selling spyware to governments having dubious human rights records. These include governments of the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and/or Morocco. These governments used software of Hacking Team for targeting journalists and dissidents.

However, Hacking Team’s spokesperson Eric Rabe hasn’t confirmed or denied the presence of contract between his company and the DEA. He also didn’t clarify the link between Cicom USA and Hacking Team. Rabe says:

“We don’t identify our clients. I’m certainly not going to comment whether the DEA or anyone else has purchased Hacking Team software.”

Via: Mother Board.

Waqas

Waqas Amir is a Milan-based cybersecurity journalist with a passion for covering latest happenings in cyber security and tech world. In addition to being the founder of this website, Waqas is also into gaming, reading and investigative journalism.