Hungary exposed as user of FinFisher spy program

A recent hacker attack against the servers of surveillance specialist Gamma International confirmed what was already suspected: the Hungarian secret service is on the list of clients for the firm’s Finfisher program, a spy software commonly used in oppressive regimes to monitor political opponents and NGOs.

A hacker calling himself Phineas Fisher recently hacked into a server operated by Gamma International and acquired some 40 gigabytes of data. The material is understandably sensitive, given that Gamma is a known producer of spyware, and it has become popular among companies, as well as national governments, looking to monitor online activity.

Computer experts have long been critical of Gamma’s products, which essentially operates on principles based on malicious code, installing itself on computers without the users’ consent and then transferring data. Mozilla actually filed a lawsuit against Gamma when its code was installed on numerous computers by disguising itself as an update to the popular Firefox browser.

Fisher’s catch contains extensive information about Gamma’s clients and its interactions with them and this information becoming public confirmed what was already widely suspected based on public procurement records released last year by Wikileaks: the Hungarian covert services are also among the users of the program. This puts the country in the company of nations like Bahrein, which used Finfisher to spy on human rights activists at the time of the Arab spring. The earlier suspicions are confirmed by tech support correspondence between Gamma and a second party sending letters from the Hungarian secret service’s domain.

Earlier, Atlatszo.hu approached the services with a freedom of information request, asking for the publication of the pertinent data. Our request was denied citing interests of national security.