Government Hacking Government


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Rather than reading a typical news article, I found this TED Talk about government surveillance. Its about 9 minutes long, and I would definitely recommend watching it if you have the time.

The speaker, Christopher Soghoian, speaks about software that governments around the world can buy in order to hack into personal computers and other devices. I was very surprised by this because, while I wasn’t aware of the extent of government’s hacking capabilities, I always assumed that these governments had to create their own software. I never imagined that private companies sold their software to any government. This doesn’t seem reasonable to me. What if this private company sells their software to a government that is at odds with their own? How can they be comfortable knowing that governments might use their software for evil, rather than good?

In addition, I was surprised that many countries buy the exact same software from companies. There are many different companies and therefore, different software. But it is very possible for multiple countries to use the exact same program. I don’t know very much about computer science and the details of computer hacking, but it seems like this could cause problems. If governments can hack personal computers, it seems like it would be far too easy for governments to hack others governments. Is this acceptable? Is this safe?

Promotional videos from private hacking software companies:

– GAMMA-201110-FinSpy Mobile

– 301_GAMMA-201110-FinSpy.mp4

– 306 GAMMA 201110 FinFly USB

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10 thoughts on “Government Hacking Government

  1. This is definitely an interesting topic. After watching the first Gamma FinSpy Mobile clip and a couple minutes of the TED Talk, I find it unbelievable that this company sells technology to governments that can monitor an individual through their webcams and other personal devices. It is particularly frightening that governments can not only hack into your computer emails, messages and other texts, but actual live video of you. This, in my mind, is a clear invasion of privacy. It also reminds me of Big Brother in 1984. If video cameras are restricted from public restrooms (right?), then how are they allowed in bedrooms of perfect strangers?

  2. Reading everyone’s blog posts, I am shocked to realize how much about spying and privacy that I did not know before. The idea of some government official being able to watch me using my webcam is just creepy to me! Software like this can easily be abused, and that is what I am afraid of. I am sure it has legitimate purposes, such as anti-terrorism efforts, but when does this spying and hacking go too far? So many questions…

  3. I agree with Scott. I am very impressed about the fact that hack companies are able to see the live video of from my web cameras, while there are about 5 of them in my room right now. My laptop, iphone, tablet and even my desktop comes with cameras. While those technologies seem to be acceptable to governments, I think it become more and more important for individuals to protect their own privacy. However, the grown attention towards the public surveillance problem will definitely affect the trust between citizens and authorities. No one wants to live in 1984 and the government should definitely be more cautious dealing with those companies.

  4. Michaela,
    That was an interesting TED talk you watched. It definitely is startling to know that governments are not creating their own software to monitor peoples’ personal computer activities. I had always known that the government hired external contractors to help with certain government agendas; however, I did not know the extent to which they used these contractors. It could become a very dangerous technological world in the near future for both civilians and governments alike if security programs are not internally built by governments.

  5. Well, private firms make all kinds of tools of government, from paper to planes, from technology to tanks, from food to atomic weapons.

    The government doesn’t usually own productive assets directly, and even in socialist economies, they often own shares.

  6. Up to now, I think pro-democracy and other activists, like Internet activists, believed that the loose “hacker” culture that built the Internet would always be one step ahead of the presumed sluggish bureaucracies of big government and big corporations.

    Perhaps a naive assumption.

  7. We freak out if someone sells equipment to Iran to refine Uranium for weapons of mass destruction.

    Maybe we should talk about weapons of mass surveillance?

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