OSINT research to discovery lucrative business of monitoring systems

Pierluigi Paganini April 12, 2012

The dramatic events of recent months have occurred in Syria should lead us all in deep thought. What value do we place on human life? Are we really willing to sacrifice the life of a child for money? International opinion has been found before the massacres of innocent civilians by the Assad regime, but little has made concrete and civilians still dying.

President al-Assad have ordered to suppress any protest, he is responsible of a massacre against an opposition that wants the removal of what is considered a dictator regime. Hundred of protesters killed in the city of Homs, incessant bombardment have sown death and destruction.  Immediate condemnation from the international community, U.S. in the lead, who expressed profound disagreement with the government of Damascus, who presented a resolution to the UN Security Council. Immediate disconcerting response of Russia and China that have vetoed the same resolution.

For which reasons Russia and China opposed the UN?

Money is the main motivation for many experts, the same recall that in December Russia agreed to sell 36 Yakovlev-130 trainer-fighter airplanes to the Syrian government in a $550 million contract. The sale is not the sole, it has been documented a continuous flow of weapons between Russia and Syria.

Also China and Syria have significant trade relations, exports from China to Syria were worth $2.2 billion making China Syria’s main importer. China is actively involved in Syria’s oil industry. China National Petroleum Corporation is a joint venture partner with Syria’s national oil company and Royal Dutch Shell in the Al-Furat Petroleum Company, the main oil producing consortium in the country. In military sector don’t forget that China was reported to be assisting Syrian ballistic missile programs.

Another important factor is the consolidation of an axis that opposes to Western policy in the Middle East, Syria is an important bulwark in this sense, a strategic reference that China and Russia do not want to lose.
The enemy of my enemy .. is my friend.

From this introduction it would seem that the West is of the role of good while countries like Russia and China are complicit in a massacre. We were wrong! As repeatedly said the West was guilty of the death of innocent civilians in the same way of mentioned Asian countries. We have in more than one occasion cited the use of computer systems against the opposition to the regime, in this sense has been used against opponents any kind of systems, malware spying for the rebels, kill switch to isolate the country from the internet to avoid disclosure information on violent repression abroad, and also web  monitoring system to pursuit the opponents.

Who has technological supported the government of President al-Assad?

Siemens and other German companies have delivered surveillance technology and made spyware for Syrian regimes, they have provided the technological support to pursue their opponents, civilians were tortured and killed once they are identified through intelligence and control systems developed. The intercepted email and live recording of internet traffic of the opponents have been used during violent interrogations as body of proof of aversion to the regime and punished with the death.

The Spiegel on Line newspaper has reported the events:
“German engineering giant Siemens and a spinoff company allegedly sold surveillance technology to the Syrian regime, according to a German television report. The government could be using the equipment to crack down on opposition supporters, human rights activists warn.”

Since 2000 Siemens has supported the regime providing a monitoring platform that has been empowered with a second shipment in 2008 made by Nokia Siemens Networks.

German industrial giant Siemens sold network surveillance technology to the Syrian regime in 2000, public broadcaster ARD reported on Tuesday night. According to their news show “Fakt,” a product called the “Monitoring Center” was delivered to Syrian mobile communications company Syriatel. Nokia Siemens Networks confirmed the delivery, they reported.
The corresponding business division at Siemens became the new joint venture Nokia Siemens Networks in 2007. The following year, that company signed a contract with Syrian landline provider STE, a deal that also included the “Monitoring Center.” These contracts were then transferred in March 2009 to the Nokia Siemens Networks spin-off company Trovicor, which took over the “Voice and Data Recording” division, ARD reported, citing documents they had obtained.

According the Trovicor’s website the “Trovicor Monitoring Center” has been specifically developed to serve the complex needs of law enforcement and national security agencies worldwide. It enables them to intercept, retain, analyse, investigate and distribute intercepted voice and data communication as well as historical data.

“Its usage spans from intercept of communications in fixed and mobile networks to next generation networking and Internet,” .Furthermore, the system is expandable. “Popular applications are e.g.: location tracking, speaker recognition and language identification and link analysis,”.

The system porvided by the German Company Trovicor was used also in other countries to crack down on political dissidents, according Bloomberg Markets magazine they have been sold also to Bahrain and we can provide several examples of cyber spy business that have advantaged authoritarian regime in their repressions.  In Egypt during the attack to intelligence agency building in Cairo made by demonstrators were found the manuals and training materials of the British Gammagroup one of which includes the Gamma International GmbH based in Munich.  Part of the gamma-portfolio monitoring software Finfisher. The “active permit access to target systems (computer and phone), this remote-controlled, analyzed data, and encrypted communications and data can be collected” products, according to the company’s website.

The Egyptian activist Mostafa Hussein in a published document has declared that the software have been tested by the government security and acquired at a cost of 400,000 euros.

In Libya, according to investigations of MDR in the bunker of Gheddafi’s son Muttasim Gaddafi, chief of internal intelligence, where found documents of the company Syborg, specializing in interception.

The Syrian havoc is not only responsibility of the German company, last October, the US firm Blue Coat Systems admitted that at least 13 of its web blocking devices, initially destined for Iraq, were being used in the regime’s repression. Always in Syria, the German Utimaco firm has provided a monitoring product, Utimaco Lawful Interception Management System (LIMS) to – “for telecommunications service providers and network operators to legally-compliant monitoring of telecommunications services.

But is not the first time, I have already reported the sale of a internet traffic monitoring system sold by an Israeli company to the Iranian government. The sold system is the “NetEnforcer” and was sold through the intermediary of a Danish company RanTek A / S. NetEnforcer bandwidth management devices provide the granular visibility and policy enforcement that network operators need to optimize the delivery, performance and profitability of WAN and broadband services. NetEnforcer devices are deployed in thousands of installations the world over, where they monitor, identify, classify, prioritize, and shape, network traffic per application and per user. But we know Israeli ban this king to commercial business with the government in Tehran. According to news agency Bloomberg, the company Allot Communications Ltd. Hod-Hasharon-based would be successful in sales, shipping the goods to RanTek A / S for transit, that after removing the original labels would in turn sent to Iran .
But why the system was purchased? According to some former employees of Allot, Bloomberg source, the system is in use to monitor internet traffic to intercept any kind of communication, from email to SMS, and the second needs to edit the contents of expressing dissent. The purpose is to identify dissidents and Internet users allow their arrest.

We are facing with a lucrative business, these companies are heedless of all international regulations and States do not exercise the necessary control specimens by applying sanctions to offenders. The wars, the massacres, the persecutions are business opportunities and I’m not surprise to read the name of western companies involved in this “dirty business”. A research of TeleStrategies estimates the market of monitoring technologies reached staggering proportions, more than three billion dollars each year.  The final clients of this business are often an authoritarian regime, but this this is a detail which affects only a few.

We pack deadly weapons and powerful cyber weapons as Stuxnet to attack the authoritarian regime and our companies sell monitoring technology, the same companies that companies finance, in hidden mode, election campaigns increasingly expensive.

Continuing in this way any discussion regarding human rights, cyber security and international regulations is useless. We need a broader debate about the ethical responsibility of companies, this trades must be controlled and validated by central governments avoiding to provide support to authoritarian regimes.

Pierluigi Paganini


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