This past weekend, one of the most notorious hacker organizations in the world, Hacking Team, was hacked by some unknown organization.
The Hacking Team is an Italian company that sells it software and services to companies and governments (yes, my rookie hackers, there are legitimate companies who sell their services to governments—Vupen, being one of the most famous and lucrative).
In this case here, it appears that the hackers who hacked Hacking Team wanted to expose Hacking Team for collaborating with some of the world's most repressive regimes. Reportedly, Hacking Team's spyware (RCS) has been sold to Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Turkey, Russia, Morocco, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and many others. In addition, Hacking Team has sold their software to U.S. governments agencies, such as the DEA, FBI, and the Department of Defense.
When we use the term spyware here, we are not referring to the innocuous but annoying spyware that tracks our web browsing and online shopping. Instead, this spyware is used to spy on the nation's citizenry, similar to what we are doing in our "Hack Like a Pro: How to Spy on Anyone" series. This software is often used to quash human rights in those countries when citizens attempt to dissent or organize against these repressive regimes.
This spyware or surveillance software is capable of intercepting phone calls, texts, social media messages, and can turn on the victim's web cam and microphone.
One area that is particularly interesting in this hack, is that the hackers of Hacking Team downloaded over 400 GB of data from their servers. Among this data were invoices for software and services to the nation of Sudan. The UN maintains an arms embargo on Sudan. If this software is determined to be a weapon (this is presently a hotly contested issue in international relations), then Hacking Team could be in hot water with the UN. They could be found to be in violation of the arms embargo and then be sanctioned themselves.
I highlight this hack for a number of reasons. First, it once again illustrates that there are companies and governments where hacking is a legitimate, legal, and lucrative profession. Second, it underscores the importance of hacking in international relations and the demand for good hackers (keep studying, my rookie hackers). Third, NO ONE is safe from being hacked.