Notorious Italian spyware company Hacking Team has been taken over and merged into a new business called Memento Labs, Motherboard reports. But the move has hardly shaken off Hacking Team’s shady history.
Twenty percent of the new company is owned by unnamed Saudi investors whom the overall owner, Paolo Lezzi, says he has never met. David Vincenzetti, cofounder of Hacking Team, will have no formal position in the new company, but will be involved as an informal adviser.
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Not all of Hacking Team’s former bosses will be joining Memento Labs. Some have already jumped ship and now work for Coinbase, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in America. Hacking Team’s former COO, Giancarlo Russo, and CTO, Alberto Ornaghi, run a company called Neutrino that monitors cryptocurrency transactions through public blockchain data, to keep tabs on criminal activity. Coinbase controversially acquired Neutrino for $13.5 million in February, leading to the #deletecoinbase scandal.
With its hybrid staff, Memento Labs aims to be fully operational in time for the ISS World conference next year, when cyber surveillance designers will gather in Prague to show off their wares.
Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, 46, was phished in 2012 using Hacking Team software. He is now in jail.
The original Hacking Team ran into trouble after an anonymous hacker released 400GB of internal files, emails and financial records via the company’s own Twitter account. Among the leaked data was a list of Hacking Team’s clients, which featured the FBI and the DEA.
Hacking Team surveillance products also appealed to authoritarian regimes, including Bahrain, Kazakhstan, and Sudan. Emirati human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, 46, was phished in 2012 using Hacking Team software, giving his government access to his email account. He is currently on hunger strike during a 10-year jail sentence.
“The company was compromised, and it’s in a tough situation,” Lezzi tells Motherboard. He wants to give Hacking Team a fresh start. “We want to change absolutely everything. We’re starting from scratch.”