An elite cyberattack group that was employed by governments and agencies was probably hacked by another country, it has said — and the attack has led to its powerful hacking tools being released into the wild.
Hacking Team was hacked last week, revealing private emails and documents as well as insights into its tools. The leaked documents showed many of the vulnerabilities that were being used by the group — such as a bug in Adobe Flash that can be exploited to get complete control of a computer — which has meant that anyone can counteract them as well as use them for their own ends.
The secretive set of hackers hires out its services to governments and organisations, ostensibly to assist them in intelligence gathering. But the leaked documents have cast doubt on many of the group’s claims — and appear to verify many of the claims made by its critics.
"Given its complexity, I think that the attack must have been carried out at a government level, or by someone who has huge funds at their disposal," the company’s CEO, David Vincenzetti, told Italian newspaper La Stampa. It is the first time that Vincenzetti has spoken publicly since the huge hack last week, and one of the only statements the company has made over the last week.
The hack now means that anyone could use the tools, the company has claimed in a statement.
“Before the attack, HackingTeam could control who had access to the technology which was sold exclusively to governments and government agencies,” the company said in a statement on its website.
“Now, because of the work of criminals, that ability to control who uses the technology has been lost. Terrorists, extortionists and others can deploy this technology at will if they have the technical ability to do so.”
The company has always maintained that it only sells its hacking services to vetted governments, and that they are used for criminal and intelligence investigations. But files leaked after the hack showed that the company appeared to be providing services to oppressive governments to let them spy on journalists and others, activists have said.
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