Italian spyware vendor Hacking Team was working on “potential deals” with customers in several Southeast Asian countries including Cambodia over the past three years, according to internal emails recently released by transparency website Wikileaks.
It is unknown if any of the deals were sealed.
Hacking Team, which has a regional office in Singapore, markets its products to government agencies that want to decode encrypted communications.
“Your suspect can be anywhere today,” the company’s online brochure says. “What you need is a way to bypass encryption, collect relevant data out of any device, and keep monitoring your targets wherever they are, even outside your monitoring domain.”
“Take control of your targets and monitor them regardless of encryption and mobility,” it says. “It doesn’t matter if you are after an Android phone or a Windows computer; you can monitor all the devices.”
According to a trove of company emails that Wikileaks posted online earlier this month, Hacking Team has been trying to sell its software to Cambodia since 2012.
A November 8, 2012, email to Hacking Team’s Singapore representative from another firm hawking its software says: “We’re still working on potential deals with customers from Qatar, [Burma], Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and many other countries which we will share with you as we move along.”
In a November 23 email, the same Singapore representative expresses continued interest in Cambodia to an employee at Placing Value, a company that markets itself as Thailand’s leading provider of “integrated technology solutions” for armed forces, police and security providers.
After commenting on another client, the Hacking Team representative writes: “Let’s keep in touch also for Cambodia, it is surely a market I would like to explore.”
On February 18, 2013, the representative writes to someone else to ask: “With regards to Vietnam and Cambodia did you find any interest in our solution?”
Then, on March 11, 2014, a Hacking Team administrator sends out an email listing the foreign delegates they plan to meet at an upcoming defense services conference in Malaysia. The list includes unnamed top police officials from seven Asian countries, including Cambodia.
None of the emails offers any more details on who in Cambodia the firm was hoping to sell to, or whether they made any sales.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Sunday that he had never heard of Hacking Team. Tith Monin, an officer in the National Police’s cyber crime office, said he was unaware of any contact between the company and his force, and did not know of any contracts with private surveillance providers.
In December, however, the government revealed plans to install surveillance equipment on the networks of Cambodia’s mobile phone operators and Internet service providers.
Transparency International country director Preap Kol on Sunday said he did not know if any private contractors were helping the government with its surveillance, but warned of a lack of credible oversight in any case.
Mr. Kol noted that the Telecommunications Ministry was drafting a law with specific provisions allowing the government to monitor private electronic communications in order to fight crime, but the law was still vague on oversight.
“And if there is no mechanism, it could be abused…for any purpose beyond crime or terrorism,” he said.
Hacking Team did not reply to a request for comment.
(Additional reporting by Kang Sothear)
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