Reprinted from http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=15864
Bimen Associates of Virginia and Harris Corporation of Florida have
contracts with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to hack
into computers and phones of surveillance targets, according to Chris
Soghoian, principal technologist at American Civil Liberties Union's
Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.
"Bimen and Harris
employees actively hack into target computers for the FBI," Soghoian
told CorpWatch. James Bimen Associates did not return phone calls asking
for comment. Jaime O'Keefe, a spokesman for
Jennifer Shearer, an FBI spokeswoman, both declined to comment for this
However, the FBI has not denied these capabilities. The agency "hires people who have hacking skill, and they purchase tools
that are capable of doing these things," a former official in the FBI's
cyber division told the Wall Street Journal recently. "When you do,
it's because you don't have any other choice."
the information from other sources, after uncovering the information
from Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the Electronic Freedom
Foundation (EFF) and other publicly available information.
government doesn't have the resources to directly monitor every American
or let alone every foreigner but they want to read the communications
of every foreigner and they want to collect information on every
American," explains Soghoian. "What do you do when you don't have the
manpower to collect everyone's communications?"
The answer, he
says, is spy software. This is not unprecedented among government
agencies. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
bought commercial products from a company named SpectorSoft in Florida
to track five staff whom they suspected of whistleblowing in 2009.
software allowed them to capture "screen images from the government
laptops of " five scientists as they were being used at work or at home "
tracked their keystrokes, intercepted their personal e-mails, copied the documents
on their personal thumb drives and even followed their messages line by
line as they were being drafted," the New York Times reported last
Other companies like Gamma International from Germany and Hacking Team from Italy have also been aggressively marketing their products
for purchase by local police officers. A number of national governments
like Egypt and Mexico have also reportedly bought such systems that
allow them to listen to regular phone and Skype conversations and read
But what agencies like the FBI are now worried about is
that individuals are "going dark" by using freely available encryption
software to prevent their email and phone conversations to be captured
by law enforcement agencies.
In order to combat this, Soghoian
says the FBI wanted custom designed products, so they turned to a little
known internal team named the "Remote Operations Unit" inside the
Operational Technology Division, which set up a project called "Going
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Eric Chuang, the head of the Remote Operations Unit in
Quantico, Virginia, who has a doctorate in clinical psychology from
Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and a law degree from Temple
University in Philadelphia, was put in charge of this task.
Associates, which has its headquarters in McLean, Virginia, near the
headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency, provided custom
designed software tools developed exclusively for the FBI to crack
encrypted conversations, says Soghoian. Agency staff and contractors
access computers of suspects remotely to install this software to allow
them to watch everything that the target types or says.
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