Tag Archives: Hacking Team

In the wake of Ashley Madison, towards a journalism ethics of using hacked documents

Got leaks? sign

Got leaks image by Edward Conde

Last week I said we needed an ethical code for dealing with hacking leaks, and promised to explore that.

Now yet another site – “casual sex and cheating network” Ashley Madison – has been hacked and the results leaked, so I thought I’d better deliver.

How do you come up with an ethical framework for dealing with hacked documents? Firstly, it’s useful to look at what concerns are raised when journalists use them.

Looking at previous reporting based on leaked documents these break down into three broad categories:

  1. Firstly, that the information was ‘stolen’ (method)
  2. Secondly, that the motivation behind obtaining the information was tainted (source)
  3. And thirdly, that the information represents an invasion of privacy (effect)

Put another way: people are generally concerned with how the leaked information was obtained, why, and to what effect. Continue reading

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Why Hacking Team could be the biggest story of the year – and why it won’t

Early last week it emerged that government cybersecurity supplier Hacking Team had been hacked. An incredible cache of documents and emails – 400GB’s worth – was released on Sunday by the hackers, providing a fascinating – and terrifying – insight into the operations of a company dubbed one of ten “enemies of the internet” by Reporters Without Borders in 2013:

“Their products have been or are being used to commit violations of human rights and freedom of information. If these companies decided to sell to authoritarian regimes, they must have known that their products could be used to spy on journalists, dissidents and netizens.”

The Intercept has been one of the most active news websites in digging through the leaked documents. Their stories this week include confirmation that surveillance technology was sold to countries with poor human rights recordsquestions about the FBI, DEA and US Army buying spyware from the company; and a sales push in the UK:

“[A] deal with the London cops, worth £385,000 ($591,000) to Hacking Team, was abruptly halted in in May 2014 following “internal reviews on how we wished to move this area of technology forward,” according to an email from the police, although the force left the door open for a future deal, adding: “Of course in the months/years to come this could change and if that is the case then we would welcome your organization’s participation.”

“Since then, Hacking Team has continued to try to crack the U.K. market. It tried – and apparently failed – to set up a deal with Staffordshire Police after an officer contacted the company seeking technology to “access WiFi points to check users” and infect devices to covertly collect data.”

The next Snowden/Wikileaks?

So we have a story about a massive document leak which concerns the most powerful governments and law enforcement agencies in the world. Sound familiar?

We’ve been here before with Wikileaks, and with the Snowden revelations – two of the biggest stories of the last decade.

Hacking Team could be as big – but one week in and we’re not seeing the coverage we should. And I think that’s because of two things those stories had that Hacking Team doesn’t: a face, and a partner. Continue reading