If you clicked on this headline, you may have already had an inkling of it. You would have probably also heard in the news of the numerous media sites and blogs which are suspiciously blocked, especially whenever an election rolls around.
To all my dear Malaysians, the question may have already passed your mind some time or another: could your government be spying on you?
Remember in mid-2015 when the news broke out that our Malaysian government had purchased citizen-spying software for government surveillance? Well in case you have forgotten, let us at BolehVPN refresh your memory. And if this is all news to you now, then this should get really interesting for you.
So it’s July 2015. News has just broken out that Malaysia’s government was found to be purchasing spying software after Hacking Team, the Italy-based company infamous for creating malwares used by governments, military and police, had been hacked.
The hacker responsible, Phineas Fisher, leaked 415GB data revealing Malaysia among other countries such as Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Panama, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan, had all been customers of the spying tool.
Photo credit: The Malaysian Insider
According to the Hacking Team brochure, the ‘Da Vinci’ Remote Control System (RCS) spying tool in question is capable of tracking the victim’s data, including copying files from a computer’s hard disk, tapping Skype calls, emails, instant messages, and passwords typed into a web browser. It can also turn on an infected device’s webcam and microphone to spy on the victim’s activity.
(Watch Hacking Team’s very creepy commercial for the RCS below)
But wait! This isn’t even recent news! Because back in 2013, Citizen Lab, an ICT research arm of the University of Toronto had already released a report of a surveillance software called FinFisher with FinFisher servers found in Malaysia.
March 2013 FinFisher global proliferation (Photo credit: Citizen Lab)
FinFisher works by gathering stolen information such as passwords, Skype calls, audio/video recordings from computers infected with FinFisher. Because FinFisher is explicitly only sold to governments probably for use of government spying, Citizen Lab’s findings suggest that a government body must be involved.
On top of that, Citizen Lab reported of a “Malaysian election-related document that also contains a piece of surveillance software that will spy on you” in which the contents of the document suggest that the campaign “targets Malay speakers who are interested or involved in Malaysia’s 2013 General Elections”.
When the website, The Malaysian Insider (which has now been famously shutdown) published an article regarding these events, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) threatened them with false reporting.
This is what we learned of what has been happening since 2013. But what about now in 2017? The thing is, until this day not much has been further investigated into the matter. However, there have been numerous instances whereby citizens were charged with sedition whenever they got remotely close to questions concerning the government or royal family, a trend which seems to be growing in cases over the recent years.
So this may or may not confirm what you have already guessed all along, or maybe it is still new to you. Either way, the possible use of such technologies is troubling and you should be given the right to protect yourself and your own privacy with services such as a VPN.