Egypt how companies help the government spy on activists – Global Voices Advocacy

One of the demands of the Egyptian revolution was to demolish one of the well-known security services for torture, grave human rights violations and spying on activists which is the State Security Investigations (SSI) and to have its officers set onto trials.

Few weeks ago when authorities didn’t respond immediately to people’s demand, many Egyptians stormed SSI headquarters to protect the evidences against SSI offices (including torture equipments and documents). Among those documents where communications between SSI units related to censorship, monitoring online content, controlling computes/ laptops, as well as shutting down communications services.

Those SSI leaks provides many information that I believe all individuals and entities working on right to privacy and freedom of expression and other relevant fields should understand and be aware of.

Since the first 6 April Strike in Egypt in 2008, security agencies and units decided to pay more attention to activist’s communications online and via their cell phones. The SSI established an Emergency Unit, among its roles to:

  • Cut-off the internet in a city, governorate or several ones.
  • Block particulate websites.
  • Get information about netiznes.
  • Shutdown mobile services in telecommunication companies.
  • Shutdown Bulk-SMS services.
  • Make sure telecommunications companies can quickly respond to requests by security authorities.

The SSI did several meetings in the presence of representatives from Ministry of Interior, General Intelligence, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Mass Communication, Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, and the three Telecommunications Companies in Egypt (Vodafone, Mobinil, Etisalat).

In 2009 -and maybe earlier- communications was established from a European-based company with its headquarters in the United Kingdom called Gamma Group International with SSI in Egypt offering them a software that SSI units describe in their internal communications in August 2009 as “high-level security system that have capabilities not provided in other systems, most prominent capabilities is hacking into personal Skype accounts, hacking email accounts associated with Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail, completely control targeted computers” and in another communication in December 2010 “record audio and video chats, record activity taking place around hacked computers with cameras and take copies of its content”.

In those communications between SSI units, the price of the software which is called Finfisher is mentioned to be for 2 million Egyptian pounds.

Here is how Gamma Group International describes itself on their websiteprovides advanced technical surveillance and monitoring solutions and international consultancy to National and State Intelligence Departments and Law Enforcement Agencies.

The most recent communication was a report issued on 1 January 2011 by an IT unit in the SSI after trying a free-trial version of the software.

These kinds of programs developed by Gamma International and similar companies are simply enabling governments and security agencies in the ruling regimes to violate anyone’s privacy, monitor anyone’s activity and impose censorship. Consequently, helping the governments to fabricate cases against political activists and human rights defenders on charges like “destabilize order”, “defaming state leaders”, “spreading rumors to overthrow the regime” and many other charges that regimes set to minimize the work of civil societies and activists towards better human rights situations.

The same situation with the Telecommunications companies in Egypt whom cooperated with Mubarak’s regime to provide information about activists and disable services.

You can read and download the SSI leaks addressed in this post through this links:

  • – State Security Internal Communications About Finfisher – Link [Arabic].
  • – Commercial Offer from Gamma International to State Security – Link [English]
  • – State Security Internal Communications on Monitoring SMS – Link [Arabic]


http://advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org/2011/05/07/egypt-how-companies-help-the-government-spy-on-activists/

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