Hacking Team Promises New Security Measures Following 400 GB Data Breach

Internet security service Hacking Team claims to be making progress in determining how hackers managed to steal 400 GB worth of data on July 6 and release it on BitTorrent, according to Business Insider. The damage, which included the hijacking of Hacking Team’s Twitter account to tweet screenshots of stolen emails, has created a public relations challenge for the Italy-based security service, which provides surveillance tools to governments worldwide.

The thieves, whose identities remain unknown, got ahold of Hacking Team’s products, email messages, audio recordings, and client information. The leak suggested the company sold its surveillance products to countries that the United Nations, NATO, European Parliament, and the U.S. have placed under export restrictions.

Hacking Team Claims It Has Gained Insight

David Vincenzetti / LinkedIn
David Vincenzetti / LinkedIn

David Vincenzetti, CEO, told Business Insider the company has determined the extent of the attack and the damage incurred. The company is cooperating with Italian law enforcement, and there is an ongoing investigation to determine who was behind it.

Hacking Team is presently developing new systems as it assesses “the new environment for surveillance,” Vincenzetti said, but he could not say how long this will take. He acknowledged there have been a number of attempts to break into Hacking Team’s systems. He said the company deserves the protection of law and order, but it has not received enough protection to prevent significant damage.

The Company Responds To The Attack

Vincenzetti told Business Insider how the company responded to the July 6 attack. After learning about the attack at 3:15 a.m., Vincenzetti had the engineers take all systems offline. They also contacted all company clients and advised them to suspend use of the system.

The attack did not reveal information from government agencies, Vincenzetti said, since Hacking Team does not actually conduct its clients’ investigations. The clients conduct the investigations and maintain the data on their own computer systems. Despite this security measure, Hacking Team told clients to stop operations since they could not immediately determine the extent of the damage.

In the first week following the attack, company engineers built a patch to further protect client data. They also rebuilt the company’s internal communications and data systems.

Also read: Fallout From Hacking Team: Adobe Exploit Patched

‘We Have Analysed And Learned’

Vincenzetti did not wish to explain how much the team has learned about the hackers’ techniques. “We have analysed the attack and learned a good deal about the techniques used, exactly what was taken, and how,” he said. “That has allowed us to take steps to protect new systems that are now in place.”

Hacking Team’s clients have been supportive, Vincenzetti said.

As our clients know from their own experience, the system that we have provided is the most powerful, comprehensive and easy to use software available for digital surveillance.

Selling To Blacklisted Countries?

In response to allegations that Hacking Team sold tools to blacklisted countries like Sudan, Vincenzetti said the company has separated business relations with Sudan, Russia and Ethiopia. While sales to these countries were legal at the time, the company has since decided to end these relationships. The company made these decisions based on the political situations in those countries and Hacking Team’s evolving business practices.

Asked if there are other countries or organizations Hacking Team will not sell its services to, Vincenzetti said this list includes North Korea, Syria, Iran, and other examples that he chose not to divulge.

Helping Governments Spy On People?

Pressed to respond to claims that Hacking Team’s tools help governments abuse citizens’ privacy, Vincenzetti said the company helps government’s fight crime in the digital age with its surveillance tools. “The company believes this is a small step toward a more secure world for all who wish to use the Internet and digital tools lawfully,” he said.

Asked to give his personal views about web privacy, Vincenzetti told he recognizes the need to balance privacy with security. He noted that his company has worked with Italian regulators in implementing the Wassenaar Arrangement’s protocols. The Wassenaar protocols are part of an international agreement among more than 40 nations, including the U.S. and the U.K., and are designed to control and manage arms deals.

“Hacking Team has always followed laws and regulation, and the company has complied immediately with new regulation such as the Wassenaar protocols that went into effect in Italy in January of 2015,” he said.

“We are committed to providing services in accordance with the rules, and as regulation has changed in the past, Hacking Team has taken whatever steps were required to operate under the law. We will do so in the future, should the regulations change again.”

Position On ‘Zero Vulnerabilities’

As for “zero vulnerabilities” – software vulnerabilities that are found by hackers before the general research or tech community – these are not core to Hacking Team’s business, Vincenzetti said. The core business is to provide surveillance tools to law enforcement. “Essential to that is a process of continuous updates to the software to assure that it can be operated securely. Zero day exploits are only one way in which clients may choose to deploy Hacking Team software.”

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Lester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.