Reports: Azerbaijan Tries To Master Malware by EurasiaNet

It’s always unsettling to learn that a repressive government has sophisticated computer malware. But in the case of Azerbaijan, the good news is that they don’t necessary know how to use it.

In emails leaked Sunday, the employees of Italian cyber-surveillance company Hacking Team exchange both giggles and exasperation as they field questions from Azerbaijan, where interior and national security officials were trying to get the hang of the spyware, Meydan TV reported on July 9.

The information, obtained by unknown hackers, makes up part of 400GB of data released via BitTorrents; a grab one privacy expert deemed the equivalent of Edward Snowden’s handiwork, Wired reported.

According to the conversation with the Azerbaijani officials, the Hacking Team offered help in “infecting targets” with the spyware, which allows remote access to all computer files and the ability to control computers’ cameras and microphones.

The Italian company had denied selling its products to abusive governments. Yet the leaked data showed that the Azerbaijani government had used a California-based company to license Hacking Team’s Remote Control System spyware, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. found. The initial payment was 320,000 euros (about $402,000) with continued annual payments for maintenance.

The software is purportedly for defense purposes, but Azerbaijan’s government has a record of spying on domestic critics. Activists detained for challenging the authorities reported about police referring to their Facebook and private communications during interrogations, Freedom House wrote. Some said police presented them with printouts of their Facebook messages.

As its energy treasure chest and international ambitions grow, the Azerbaijani government has locked away an increasing number of prominent critics, including journalists.*

Emin Milli, who runs Meydan TV from Berlin and knows what it’s like to do jail time for criticism of the Azerbaijani government, recently reported getting threats from Azerbaijani Sports Minister Azad Rahimov for the outlet’s critical coverage of Baku’s recent European Games. The official has not yet responded to the allegations.

*Among those imprisoned, investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova has worked as a reporter for EurasiaNet.org.

Reports: Azerbaijan Tries To Master Malware