The Black Market of Mass Surveillance Equipment

“Anyone who has looked at Iran, at the young population, can understand the enormous pressure and fear that they live under in a country where surveillance and restrictions and monitoring are not only systematic, but the consequences of being caught speaking your mind can be death.”

Marietje Schaake — Member of the European Parliament

Imsi catcher

Today, authoritarian governments, criminal organizations and even terrorist groups can easily by mass surveillance equipment on the black market. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, however, has revealed how extremely invasive spyware, which can also intercept the electronic communications of a city, can be bought on the “grey market” by repressive governments.

Spy Merchants exposes the negotiation of several illegal, multi-million dollar deals that breached international sanctions, including a proposed deal to supply highly restricted surveillance equipment to Iran.

Rights groups and privacy experts say they are concerned that IMSI-catchers or IP-intercept systems are being sold to authoritarian governments.

IMSI-catcher & IP-intercept

An IMSI-catcher is a portable device that allows its users to track and snoop on multiple mobile phones, with the ability to allow its user to send fake messages from your contacts.

An IP-intercept system has the capability to snoop on data sent over the internet, track who is clicking on certain websites and – by using particular keywords – can accumulate your entire internet history

The technology government leaders used to crack down on protest organisers and contain the spread of revolution, more often than not, came from outside their borders, from countries such as the United States , Italy, Germany and the UK .

Circumventing sanctions

Companies are breaking the law by selling and exporting surveillance equipment powerful enough to spy on entire populations to countries like Iran, but vendors circumvent sanctions and export rules.

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Spy Merchants  — Al Jazeera Investigations

“During a four-month undercover operation, an industry insider working for Al Jazeera filmed the negotiation of several illegal, multi-million dollar deals that breach international sanctions.

The proposed deals include the supply of highly restricted surveillance equipment to Iran. The undercover operative also secured an extraordinary agreement to purchase powerful spyware with a company who said they didn’t care who was the end-user.”


Spy Merchants: Spying on dissent through illegal means — aljazeera


The Black Market of Mass Surveillance Equipment

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