Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Not Just NSA: DEA Also Spending Millions to Purchase Exploits and Spyware

As more information leaks out into the public domain, the only difference between the NSA and the DEA seems to be the selection of letters in their acronyms. Both are now known for their bulk domestic collections and both are known for being involved in neverending wars. Now, thanks to Privacy International and Vice's Motherboard, both are known for purchasing weaponized software.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been buying spyware produced by the controversial Italian surveillance tech company Hacking Team since 2012, Motherboard has learned.

The software, known as Remote Control System or “RCS,” is capable of intercepting phone calls, texts, and social media messages, and can surreptitiously turn on a user’s webcam and microphone as well as collect passwords.

The DEA originally placed an order for the software in August of 2012, according to both public records and sources with knowledge of the deal.

The problem with the DEA's purchase and deployment of this malware is that tools normally used to engage in the protection of national security -- by military and intelligence agencies -- are being handed out to US law enforcement without the slightest concern for the Fourth Amendment or privacy implications. There's a level of intrusion present here that's never been examined by the courts. Not that the DEA would ever allow details on Hacking Team's products to ever enter a courtroom in the first place. Hacking Team's spy products are one of many secret law enforcement capabilities -- something that must never be spoken of in public forums.

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