Government Spyware Firm That Put Rogue Apps on Play Store Goes Bankrupt

A court just declared eSurv, a company that sold spyware to Italian cops, bankrupt.
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Hacking. Disinformation. Surveillance. CYBER is Motherboard's podcast and reporting on the dark underbelly of the internet.

A company that sold spyware to Italian cops has declared bankruptcy. 

In 2019, Motherboard reported that a company named eSurv was distributing malware on the Google Play Store. At the time, our investigation found that eSurv had infected around 1,000 targets, several of them just innocent citizens that did not commit any crime. A few months prior, prosecutors opened an investigation accusing eSurv employees of spying on innocent Italians. 


On March 4, a court in Catanzaro, the southern Italian city where eSurv was based, declared the company bankrupt

The story of eSurv is a textbook example of government spyware gone awfully wrong. The company started selling video surveillance software for homes and offices. Then, after the void left by the demise of the infamous spyware giant Hacking Team, it started developing software that allowed cops to spy on cellphones. 

The company developed apps that were designed to look like apps to receive promotions and marketing offers from local Italian telecom providers, and snuck them on Google's Android Play Store. Behind this harmless appearance, the apps actually siphoned off sensitive and personal data from the phones of people who installed them, as an investigation from research collective Security Without Borders revealed at the time

"As we mourn this loss, our thoughts and prayers go out to all the nameless victims of Exodus," a representative of Security Without Borders told Motherboard in an online chat. 

While the company is about to go out of existence, the criminal investigation into its former managers is still underway, according to a law enforcement source who asked to remain anonymous to discuss an ongoing inquiry. 

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