Leaked Documents Reveal Surveillance Tools Orlando Investigators Want to Purchase

A screen shot from Hacking Team's Galileo spyware package.

A demonstration screen shot from Hacking Team’s Galileo spyware software.

By Trevor Aaronson
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation, a multi-agency police task force in Orlando that covers Orange and Osceola counties, is negotiating with Italian company Hacking Team to purchase spyware technology that infiltrates phones and computers.

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These negotiations, which were reported July 10 by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting in partnership with the Associated Press, were made public after unknown hackers compromised Hacking Team’s servers and released more than 400 gigabytes of company data, including emails.

Hacking Team sells spyware to governments and law enforcement agencies worldwide that can monitor conversations and emails, and even turn phones and laptops into surveillance devices by remotely activating cameras and microphones.

According to leaked documents, agents with the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation are scheduled to meet with Hacking Team representatives on July 21 in North Carolina to see a software demonstration that prevents the transfer of data police are not allowed to receive with wiretap surveillance warrants. Hacking Team’s surveillance software, if not modified, provides a form of bulk surveillances — information about everyone with whom the target of the investigation communicated.

MBI representatives did not respond to FCIR’s requests for comment. However, MBI Director Larry Zweig told the Orlando Sentinel that he wants to have the capability to monitor communications among suspected criminals who use applications such as Snapchat. Zweig declined to say what he was interested in purchasing from Hacking Team.

Leaked Hacking Team documents suggest MBI wants to purchase spyware called Galileo, which the Italian company describes as “the hacking suite for governmental interception.” The spyware, once installed surreptitiously on a computer or phone, allows law enforcement to see in real time what a suspect is seeing and to track his or her movements. It allows for police to intercept data as it appears on the target’s screen.

The spyware — which can be installed on multiple operating systems, including Apple’s iOS and OS X, Windows, Android, Blackberry, and Linux — can be delivered through a Word or PowerPoint document or when the target opens a link or scans a QR code. The spyware is invisible to antivirus software, according to Hacking Team.

Here’s the full PowerPoint presentation that describes Hacking Team’s Galileo product:

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