UK spy malware used against Bahraini activists

UK spy malware used against Bahraini activists
Mon May 13, 2013 10:55:23

A British company has provided Bahraini government with a spying malware that has been used against Bahraini opposition activists, a complaint submitted at a UK court suggests.

The campaign group Privacy International (PI) in November reported that British Gamma International was selling surveillance technology without a proper license.

Evidence submitted to a UK high court contains a witness statement from Bahraini activist and writer Ala'a Shehabi, 30. She has both Bahraini and British citizenship, and is one of the founding members of Bahrain Watch, an independent research and advocacy organization set up following a security crackdown in the country in February 2011.

Shebabi became one of the targets of the FinSpy malware emails, developed by Gamma International.

The activist said she received four phishing emails from what appeared to be authentic email accounts after being released after detention.

The FinSpy software allows for surveillance of emails, social media messaging and Skype calls, and can retrieve files saved on an infected computer's hard drive. It also can remotely operate microphones and cameras on computers and mobile phones.

“I have real concerns about the Bahraini regime having effective unfettered access to my computer, reading my emails and monitoring my calls. Not only is this a gross invasion of my privacy, I am concerned that it could put in danger from the Bahraini authorities myself, my family members and other activists,” the Guardian quoted Shehabi as saying.

“It upset me a lot, scared me and made me feel quite paranoid. I am very concerned that it appears that a product of a British company," she stressed.

Bahrain’s human rights situation is “critical in the wake of the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that erupted in February 2011,” Human Rights Watch reported in December.

Police regularly use violence to disperse crowds of protesters, while Bahrainis are continuing to protest, demanding greater rights and freedoms from the ruling Sunni minority.

More than 80 people have died in unrest since the pro-democracy protests begun in the February 2011 uprising, with thousands arrested and imprisoned and severe violence employed during the course of the arrests. Physical and psychological torture of prisoners to sign false confessions has also been reported.

New laws were passed in Bahrain in April making it illegal to insult the country’s king and national symbols, charges that carry five-year jail sentences.

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