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Hacker ‘Phineas Fisher’ Speaks on Camera for the First Time—Through a Puppet

"The natural tendency of everyone in power is to want more power and control, and they need surveillance for that."
December 15, 2016, 5:15am

You can watch CYBERWAR's Cyber Mercenaries episode on SBS VICELAND tonight, Thursday 15th, at 9:25 PM.

A little bit over a year ago, the normally quiet Twitter account of Hacking Team, an Italian company that sells spying tools to governments all over the world, started acting weird.

"Since we have nothing to hide, we're publishing all our e-mails, files, and source code," read a Tweet published on late Sunday, July 5, 2015.

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The tweet was accompanied by a link to a torrent file of around 400 gigabytes, practically everything Hacking Team had on its corporate servers: internal emails, confidential documents, and even the company's source code. Hacking Team, which at that point was already notorious for selling its wares to repressive regimes and governments such as Ethiopia, Morocco, and others, had just gotten hacked.

Hours later, the hacker who breached the company's computers, and used its own official Twitter account to spread the hacked data and embarrass it, revealed himself to be the same one who the year prior had carried out a similar attack against another company that sells spyware to governments, FinFisher.

Since then, the hacker, who goes by the moniker Phineas Fisher, has kept mostly quiet, except for some tweets on his own Twitter account, and a writeup on how he broke into Hacking Team, which also served as a manifesto of his "hack back" hacking political movement.

Before all this, though, just a few weeks after his hack, I asked him if he wanted to do an interview with some colleagues from VICE Canada, who were working on a documentary on the growing market of cyber mercenaries, companies that sell hacking and spying tools to police and intelligence agencies all over the world.

After some back and forth, Phineas Fisher agreed—with one strange condition.

"I'll do a video interview if you get kermit the frog (or a homemade non-trademark violating puppet) and a voice actor to read lines I type in chat," Phineas Fisher told me.

And so, our friends in Canada got a homemade puppet and chatted with Phineas Fisher in his first-ever extended interview. You can watch most parts of the interview in the video below.