Morocco used Hacking Team to spy on the UN

Morocco, UNO, Ban Ki-moon, DPKO, Pegasus, Idriss Déby, Tchad, Algeria, Ramtane Lamamra,

Before the Israeli Pegasus, Morocco used the computer control software of the private company Hacking Team to spy on the activities of the UN Secretariat General, related to the Western Sahara issue. According to confidential documents, Morocco is the third largest client of this Italian company and has paid more than 3 million euros to Hacking Team. Including 1.19 million euros for the Moroccan DST, 1.93 million euros for the CSDN (Supreme Council of Defense, chaired by Mohammed VI).

These serious revelations come from 400 gigabytes of information extracted from the website of the company Hacking Team and published by anonymous hackers. The Milan-based company sells spyware for hundreds of thousands of euros to countries and security services that flout virtual ethics, including Morocco. Several confidential documents of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) stolen by the Moroccan services have been revealed by the hacker who acts under the pseudonym of Chris Coleman.

Other documents seem to emanate from other services dependent on the UN General Secretariat. Among these documents, the minutes of meetings of the UN Secretary General with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ramtan Lamamra, and with the Chadian President, Idriss Déby. Morocco had set up three monitoring points. In Rabat, with massive surveillance tools from the French company Amesys (Bull-France). In Casablanca and Tangier, with offensive security tools from Hacking Team and Vupen (France) respectively.

According to the NGO, Reporters Without Borders, Hacking Team’s software was identified on the computers of the offices of the Moroccan news website Mamfakinch, a few days after this media had received the Breaking Borders Award 2012 by Global Voices and Google. Malware had been deployed there, via a Word document, which claimed to contain important confidential information.

Shortly thereafter, the electronic site « Algérie Patriotique » published two confidential documents fraudulently stolen by Morocco to learn about Algeria’s intentions. These are the minutes of meetings between the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ramtane Lamamra, and the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon.

Let us note in passing that the content of these talks proves that Algeria has no double talk and does not plot against anyone. Algeria’s only concern is peace in the region. So why does the Makhzen want to spy on its neighbor?

It is an established fact that Algeria’s diplomatic activities prevent the Makhzen’s people from getting any sleep. Algeria is active internationally and particularly on issues affecting the region facing a major destabilization operation, including through armed conflict in Libya, a situation conducive to the development of terrorist groups, which has had an extension in Mali and a dramatic impact also in Tunisia, as evidenced by the recent attack in Sousse.

This does not please the Moroccan leaders who are doing everything to sabotage the Algiers roadmap on Mali and efforts to bring the conflicting parties in Libya together. The Makhzen is enraged every time Algeria makes progress in this direction. And even more so, when Algeria’s foreign partners give it the thumbs up.

« Algeria plays a key role in the peace process in Mali. I welcome the collaboration of Algeria, Mali’s neighbors, regional organizations and my Special Representative in developing a roadmap in Algiers. It is essential that all relevant actors continue to work together to support the political process, » noted UN SG Ban Ki-moon in the PV hacked by the Makhzen.

Regarding Libya, the UN Secretary General wrote: « I encourage Algeria to support the efforts of my new Special Representative, Bernardino León, to reach a comprehensive agreement on the future of the transition in Libya.

The site Privacy International addresses the issue in the following post:

Facing the Truth: Hacking Team leak confirms Moroccan government use of spyware

On July 6th, the company Hacking Team was hacked: over 400GB of administrative documents, source code and emails are now available for download.

Documents from the hack confirm once again the claims made in our report Their Eyes on Me, the Moroccan intelligence services made use of Hacking Team’s spyware ‘Remote Control System’ to target those whom they perceive as their opponents. The documents show the two intelligence agencies in the country have been renewing their contracts and are currently still using the piece of spyware. Over the past six years Morocco has spent more than €3 million on Hacking Team equipment.

Among the documents, a client list showed that the two Moroccan intelligence agencies – the High Council for National Defence (CSDN) and the Directory of Territorial Surveillance (DST) – have both purchased Remote Control System. The CSDN first acquired it back in 2009 and the DST obtained it in 2012.

In total Morocco spent €3,173,550 to purchase the licenses and maintain the product. In 2015 alone, the CSDN spent €140,000 and the DST €80,000 for spyware that can reach respectively up to 300 and 2,000 targeted devices.

The contracts were both signed through Al Fahad Smart Systems, an Emirati company that acts as an intermediary for government and private companies seeking to purchase “security services”.

The documents also reveal that the Moroccan Gendarmerie was listed as an “opportunity” for 2015 and expected to obtain €487,000 from them.

The documents arrived two months after the Moroccan government threatened members of Moroccan civil society with a lawsuit following the publication in Morocco of the Privacy International report ‘Their Eyes on Me’. The report was a series of testimonies of activists who had been targeted by Hacking Team spyware.

In a press release relayed by the press agency MAP, the Government said they had “filed a lawsuit against some people who prepared and distributed a report which includes serious accusations of spying by its services”. And they added that “(the) ministry has asked for an investigation to identify people behind such accusations to try them by the competent court ».

The staff of our partner organisation in Morocco reported that their neighbours and family members were interrogated by the police following the announcement.

All the claims stated in the report were in fact backed by research from the Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary research group affiliated to the University of Toronto. Back in 2012, they had identified the use of Remote Control System against Mamfakinch, a collective of citizen journalists, whose stories are documented in our report.

Emails from Hacking Team employees, spotted by The Intercept, reveal that their opinion of the Moroccan government had remained untainted. David Vincenzetti, the CEO of Hacking Team, wrote to his colleagues in a recent email: “The King of Morocco is a benevolent monarch. Morocco is actually the most pro-Western Arab country, national security initiatives are solely needed in order to tighten stability.”

Those revelations are, however, yet more evidence that the reality of the Moroccan regime is very different from the public image the Government likes to spread. Far from a liberal Kingdom led by a benevolent monarch, Morocco is in fact yet another regime that has been caught red-handed using highly invasive technology to spy on journalists and pro-democracy activists. And when their wrongdoing is exposed, the government attempts to discredit the solid work of independent researchers and to silence local activists.

#Morocco #Hacking_team #Pegasus #UN #Ban_ki_moon #Idriss_Déby #Tchad