A New Age of Warfare: How Internet Mercenaries Do Battle for Authoritarian Governments

by Mark Mazzetti and Adam Goldman, NYT

The Saudi government’s reliance on a firm from Israel, an adversary for decades, offers a glimpse of a new age of digital warfare governed by few rules and of a growing economy, now valued at $12 billion, of spies for hire.

Even the smallest countries in the world have the resources to buy digital espionage services, enabling them to conduct sophisticated operations like electronic eavesdropping or influence campaigns. In addition, corporations that want to understand competitors’ secrets, or a wealthy individual with a vendetta against a rival, also can command intelligence operations for a price.

The New York Times recently conducted a months-long examination that uncovered secret battles in the growing digital combat environment. The Middle East is the epicenter of this new era of privatized spying.

For example, companies such as Israel-based NSO Group and United Arab Emirates-based DarkMatter have enabled governments to hack criminal elements like terrorist groups and drug cartels, while also targeting journalists and activists in some cases. Read the complete article

DCL: This is an intriguing and detailed study of electronic spying for sale. It depends mostly on loading spyware onto victim’s cell phones. The article does not however contain enough details about the loading of pirate spyware itself, but deals mostly with the applications. It does seem that a victim has to be disingenuous enough to click on a spyware link to become a victim.

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