Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Botswana spy agencies in PI list of international hi-tech surveillance equipment shoppers

The extent of Botswana’s intelligence surveillance state may be exposed in the ongoing release of WikiLeaks and Privacy International “Spy Files” which shines the light on the secretive industry. Privacy International (PI), which is collaborating with Wiki leaks in the project has listed Botswana security agencies among international intelligence organisations that have been shopping for hi-tech electronic surveillance and cyber intelligence gathering equipment at ISS ( Intelligence Support Systems) trade shows since 2007.

A list leaked by PI showing which countries attended the secretive show between 2007 and 2009 shows that the Botswana Police Service attended the show in 2007 in Dubai. The following year, in 2008 the Office of the President and the Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services (DISS). The preamble by Wiki leaks states that, “this industry is, in practice, unregulated. Intelligence agencies, military forces and police authorities are able to silently, and on mass, and secretly intercept calls and take over computers without the help or knowledge of the telecommunication providers.

Users’ physical location can be tracked if they are carrying a mobile phone, even if it is only on stand by.” The report further states that, “across the world, mass surveillance contractors are helping intelligence agencies spy on individuals and ‘communities of interest’ on an industrial scale. The Wiki leaks Spy Files reveal the details of which companies are making billions selling sophisticated tracking tools to government buyers, flouting export rules, and turning a blind eye to dictatorial regimes that abuse human rights.” Two months ago, Wiki Leaks released previously unseen copies of weaponised German surveillance malware used by intelligence agencies around the world to spy on journalists, political dissidents and others.

FinFisher (formerly part of the UK based Gamma Group International until late 2013) is a German company that produces and sells computer intrusion systems, software exploits and remote monitoring systems that are capable of intercepting communications and data from OS X, Windows and Linux computers as well as Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile devices.

FinFisher first came to public attention in December 2011 when Wiki Leaks published documents detailing their products and business in the first SpyFiles release. Since the first SpyFiles release, researchers published reports that identified the presence of FinFisher products in countries around the world and documented its use against journalists, activists and political dissidents.

Although Botswana security agencies are not listed among international spy agencies using the German malware, WikiLeaks indicated that the release of the spy files was ongoing. A recent dispute between former DISS Director General Isaac Kgosi and former head of Botswana Defence Force military Intelligence, Peter Magosi over missing spy equipment however revealed that Botswana intelligence agencies have already acquired computer and cellular phone intrusion spyware. The Sunday Standard was however not able to establish were the gadget were procured.


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