Companies providing hacking services to government and law enforcement are gaining increasing attention. This week, an Israeli company called Cellebrite came into the spotlight after it was reported that it may be helping the FBI break into a dead terrorist's iPhone.Hacking Team is possibly the most notorious example of this type of company, in no small part thanks to a mysterious hacker only known as PhineasFisher, who allegedly broke into Hacking Team's internal servers, exposing virtually all its secrets, including its secret list of customers, as well as the source code of its software in July of 2015.Some experts predicted this would be the end of Hacking Team's business. How can a company that claims to be an expert on hacking allow itself to be so thoroughly compromised? And yet, since the breach, Hacking Team has been rebuilding. The sales pitch in South America shows that Hacking Team is back in business—or at least, it's trying to be.There is other evidence of the company's return. At the end of last month, security researchers found traces of a new sample of the company's spyware in the wild. Hacking Team itself has gone on a rare PR push, claiming a comeback. In a glowing article in an Italian magazine that resembles more of a press release, Hacking Team's CEO claimed to have recovered all the company's customers.
"The presentation was crappy, their [source] code is available [online], and they have lots of technical limitations."
But according to sources close to the company, the company is struggling to get back on its feet.A person close to Hacking Team, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the company has lost some of its customers, and hasn't added any new ones in the last few months. Ten employees, including the chief technology officer, the chief operations officer, and the operations manager, left in the months following the hack.Furthermore, the source who attended the meeting in South America was decidedly underwhelmed. "The presentation was crappy, their [source] code is available [online], and they have lots of technical limitations," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't allowed to talk to the media about the meeting.Hacking Team also apparently had a few new tricks that former employees found worrisome. During the meeting with the South American government agency, according to the source who was present, the company's representative circulated a list of current customers, as well as a table comparing RCS with the competing spyware FinFisher, which was also hacked as part of a breach at Gamma International in 2014.Both practices, according to multiple former Hacking Team employees, were never part of the protocol when dealing with new potential customers.
"Our technology is now even more invisible, and stronger than before."
The fate of Hacking Team is anyone's guess, but it's clear that the company is trying all it can to stay afloat.