First Look Media was founded to report on sensitive, adversarial stories about the world's spy agencies. Imagine being the sysadmin in charge of ensuring that the spies being busted in the site's articles didn't hack the site itself. Morgan Mayhem is the nom-de-guerre of Morgan Marquis-Boire, whom First Look poached from a top security role at Google to run their security. In a fascinating Wired profile, Andy Greenberg introduces us to someone who's taken on one of the most daunting roles imaginable: protecting a site dedicated to publishing the secrets of spies, whose own records could compromise sources from within security organizations, something that both their employers and their adversaries in rival spy agencies would love to make happen.
Beyond protecting Snowden’s favorite journalists, Marquis-Boire sees his decision to leave Google for First Look as a chance to focus full-time on the problem of protecting reporters and activists as a whole, groups he sees as some of the most sensitive targets for governments globally. “I look at the risk posed to individuals in the real world,” says Marquis-Boire, an imposing, often black-clad New Zealander with earrings, dreadlocks, and a taste for death metal. “In human rights and journalism, the consequences of communications being compromised are imprisonment, physical violence, and even death. These types of users need security assistance in a very real sense.”
Marquis-Boire already has distinguished himself as a relentless counter-surveillance researcher and a vocal critic of the companies that have created an industry hawking spyware to governments. In 2012, he and researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab were the first to identify Finfisher, a stealthy collection of spying tools sold by the British firm Gamma Group that they eventually tracked to command-and-control servers in 25 countries. Later that year he helped trace how a piece of software sold by the Italian firm Hacking Team was used by the government of the United Arab Emirates to spy on a political dissident beaten by thugs. Just last month he revealed new findings that showed how that company’s tools have evolved to target iPhones, Android devices and other mobile targets. And in early 2013 Marquis-Boire and Citizen Lab researchers mapped the spread of surveillance and censorship tools sold by the Palo Alto, California firm Blue Coat to 61 countries, including Iran.
The Ex-Google Hacker Taking on the World’s Spy Agencies [Andy Greenberg/Wired]