Back in July, a hacker dumped the emails and other files from Hacking Team, Italy's notorious cyber-arms dealer. Coincidentally, Vice had recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI, asking if they were buying cyberweapons from Hacking Team.
The dump confirmed that the FBI had spent nearly a million dollars on Hacking Team's "products." The FBI, meanwhile, has finally responded to the FOIA request, stating that they can neither confirm nor deny what everyone now knows: that they bought cyberweapons from sleazy arms-dealers, and used them to attack people in America.
The leak contains the receipts issued by Hacking Team, through its US-based reseller Cicom USA, to the FBI for the sale of the spyware suite RCS. Files titled “Receipt Cicom USA x FBI” detail exactly how much the FBI spent on the company’s spyware since 2011 (more than $775,000). And despite the fact that Hacking Team’s CEO David Vincenzetti insisted that employees used the codename “PHOEBE” to refer to the FBI, many weren’t too careful.
“It’s hard to answer your question if I don’t know who Phoebe is,” wrote an Hacking Team executive to an account manager in 2012.
The manager responded: “FBI.”
And documents are littered with explicit references to the FBI, and a client list reveals who the code actually belongs to.
The FBI Won’t Confirm or Deny Buying Hacking Team Spyware, Even Though It Did
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NSO is an Israel cyberarms dealer, which buys or researches vulnerabilities in software and then weaponizes them; claiming that these cyberweapons will only be used by democratic governments and their police forces to attacks serious criminals and terrorists — a claim repeated by its competitors, such as Italy’s Hacking Team and Gamma Group.
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