WikiLeaks has stepped up its campaign to expose the global surveillance industry with the release of a new collection of sensitive documents from private intelligence and information technology companies.
The transparency group has published 294 documents from 92 contractor firms providing surveillance and intelligence technology to governments around the world.
WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange said “Spy Files 3”, the third tranche of documents released on the subject, was part of his organisation’s “ongoing commitment to shining a light on the secretive mass surveillance industry”.
“The files form a valuable resource for journalists and citizens alike, detailing and explaining how secretive state intelligence agencies are merging with the corporate world in their bid to harvest all human electronic communication,” he said.
The released documents include sensitive sales brochures and presentations used by companies to encourage security, intelligence and police services to acquire surveillance systems and services. Technologies on offer include “lawful interception” systems, mass telecommunications monitoring, network recording, signals and communications intelligence and listening devices.
The WikiLeaks release shows internet spying capabilities now being sold on the intelligence market include detecting encrypted and obfuscated internet usage such as Skype, BitTorrent, VPN, SSH and SSL. The documents also reveal how contractors work with intelligence and police agencies to obtain decryption keys.
The documents detail bulk interception methods for voice, SMS, MMS, email, fax and satellite phone communications. The released documents also show intelligence contractors are selling capabilities to analyse web and mobile interceptions in real-time.
One 2011 document shows how companies such as British-based Gamma Group, German-based Desoma and Swiss-based Dreamlab are working in concert to “create Telecommunications Intelligence Systems for different telecommunications networks to fulfil the customers’ needs” regarding “massive data interception and retention”.
Other documents in the release show evidence of these technologies being used to infect users in Oman with remote-controlled spyware. The FinFly ‘iProxy’ installation by Dreamlab shows how targets are identified and malware is covertly inserted alongside a legitimate download while keeping the intended download functioning as expected. The target identification methods mean that anybody connecting through the same network would be systematically and automatically intercepted and infected as well, even unintended targets.
British-based privacy advocacy organisation Privacy International said the latest WikiLeaks release “further reveals the extent of which Western corporations are equipping repressive regimes and non-democratic governments to target activists, journalists, and human rights defenders”.
“Unequivocally, the newest ‘Spy Files’ documents show that this dark industry only continues to grow, in both technical capability and customer base, all while amassing billions in profits off the suffering of individuals,” Privacy International researcher Kenneth Page said.
“The types of surveillance being marketed by these companies represent some of the most sophisticated technologies available – whether it’s intrusion software, data mining, Trojans, location tracking, deep packet inspection, facial recognition or mass monitoring,” he said.
“And just like an advertisement you would see on television or in a magazine, spy firms are marketing these tools with flashy graphics, sales-speak and guarantees on effectiveness. It’s quite jarring to see such dangerous technologies being presented in such an unthreatening fashion, given that these products represent one of the biggest threats to human rights in the 21st century.”
The global trade of surveillance technology is estimated to be worth up to $US5 billion ($5.5 billion) a year. By comparison, the “traditional” global trade in small arms (excluding the sale of ammunition) was worth $US4 billion a year.
WikiLeaks has also published information on the movement of private intelligence corporate executives and sales personnel, thereby revealing the geographical focus of their activities.
Mr Assange said the WikiLeaks “Counter Intelligence Unit” has been “tracking the trackers”.
“The WikiLeaks Counter Intelligence Unit (WLCIU) operates to defend WikiLeaks’ assets, staff and sources, and, more broadly, to counter threats against investigative journalism and the public’s right to know,” he said. “The WLCIU has collected data on the movements of key players in the surveillance contractor industry, including senior employees of Gamma, Hacking Team and others as they travel through Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brazil, Spain, Mexico and other countries.”
No further details of the new unit have been revealed. However it is a matter of public record that former US intelligence contractor turned whistle-blower Edward Snowden has been associated with WikiLeaks since his travel from Hong Kong to Russia in June.