The Italian espionage company Hacking Team –hacked past July- has indeed signed contracts with the current government. There are at least two of them, for 410 thousand euros that entitle the acquisition of software for the tapping of communication.
Earnestly, almost solemnly, the Secretariat of the Interior (SEGOB) said no. Before a dozen of witnesses, under the light of cameras, with an astonishing ease, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong dismissed that the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto would have hired Hacking Team (HT), the enterprise specialized in spying programs:
“Concerning the equipment that you refer- he assured the reporter that asked about the topic- was purchased by the past administration; in this current administration no equipment [has] been bought.” This is what he said on the past 6th of July, and got recorded on video.
In the meantime, a group of hackers had intervened in the Italian firm and had shared its list of clients. Mexico appeared as the major buyer of the invasive technology, and Osorio Chong had to talk about it. The head of the interior, used to dismissing allegations, mechanically denied it.
In the context by which the source of the proof was a leak from hacking operation, Osorio Chong denied that the current government had any contracts. Now, the own intelligence organ in charge contradicts the PRI-Affiliated politician.
The Center of Investigation and National Security (CISEN), in response to a request of access to information No. 0410000023815, provided to Contralinea all contracts signed with Hacking Team; not only those corresponding to the “past administration”, also those of the current one.
The relation between the Federal Government and Hacking Team indeed started during the administration of Felipe Calderón. But once the power shift done this did not cease.
The first contract with the Italian enterprise, Cisen/048/10 was signed on the 29th of October 2010; the most recent, Cisen/020/15, was signed on the 20th April 2015.
Between the first and the last document there are three more, corresponding to 2011, 2012 and 2013 (050/11, 037/12 and 128/13 respectively), i.e. the current administration has continued to pay to HT for the use of their spying technology.
All contracts –of which Contralínea possesses a copy- were drafted by direct adjudication, despite that the intelligence body assures to have made a “market research that served as a basis for the selection of the enterprise Hacking Team, SRL”.
The first agreement, reached during the PAN government and signed by Guillermo Valdés Castellanos, then Director-General of the CISEN, and by David Vincenzetti, president of the Administrative Board of Hacking Team, officially it was about the “acquisition of software for the analysis of the network traffic”.
With resources of the budget allocation 3409 of this year, denominated as Patents, Royalties and Others, the CISEN paid the equivalent in Mexican pesos of 240 thousand euros.
In 2011 the body paid the equivalent of 415 thousand euros for the “acquisition of the enhancement of the software”; in 2012, year of the presidential elections, it recalled the Italian firm to sign a new “contract for the upgrade” of the appliance, paying 325 thousand euros more. In the position of directors of the intelligence body still in hand of the PAN, Alejandro Poiré and Jaime Domingo López Buitrón signed it.
On the 31st of December 2013 David Vincenzetti not only celebrated New Year’s Eve; he did it with songs like Al son de la negra in the Mexico City, beyond the arrival of 2014, for a second reason: for when the bells rang and the grapes were eaten, the Italian impresario had already secured with the CISEN the new “enhancement” of the program they commercialize.
Hacking Team had survived the change of power and of party in the presidential power and the signatures of Eugenio Ímaz Gispert, the new director-general of the CISEN appointed by the own Enrique Peña Nieto and his Secretary of the Interior, Osorio Chong; of Frida Martínez Zamora, head of the Administration, Finance and Human Resources Unit of the same intelligence body; the director of the Technological Services, Raúl Villegas Lastra, and of Victor Emilio Corzo Cabañas, General Judicial Coordinator of the CISEN endorsed the happiness of Vincenzetti, who would return to Milan with 205 thousand euros more.
The last contract made –until now-, Cisen/020/15, between HT and the dependency of the Secretariat of the Interior equally was “for the acquisition of the enhancement of the software for the analysis of network traffic”. The signatures of Ímaz Gispert; of Nicéforo Ramírez Castillo, new head of the Administration, Finance and Human Resources Unit; also of the brandnew director of Technological Services of the CISEN, Gabriel Méndez, and the judicial chief Victor Corzo assured another 205 thousand euros for Hacking Team. Méndez and Corzo are in charge of verifying for the CISEN the fulfillment of the hired services with Hacking Team.
“In 2012, 2014 and 2015 only the costs of maintenance have been paid”, assured in written form the Secretariat of the Interior (SEGOB) confronted with the insistence of Contralínea of interviewing the Secretary Osorio Chong.
Through a card sent on the 16th of October, by orders of Roberto Femat, Director-General of Social Communication of the Secretariat, the dependency of the executive branch sustained the latter in written form. Maybe because they ignored that the very own intelligence body had already provided to the weekly magazine the contracts signed with HT.
“Information of media outlets suggest that the Hacking Team was hacked –asserted the communiqué of the Department of Communication of the Interior-, thus having exposed the information of the firm […] due to this incident, the Enrollment Platform of HT remains disabled.”
In spite of the aforementioned, in the same letter he notes that “currently there are four computer equipment enrolled, all of them for DAGS, which produce continuously information; the deliveries are made on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays”.
Hacking Team, inside it all
The CISEN made what was at reach to hide the technical information and to impede that it was officially admitted what software was acquired to Hacking Team. In this case the one who exposed the intelligence body was the Secretariat of the Interior.
The key to the agreements signed between the CISEN and Hacking Team are the technical appendixes. There is detailed the spying software provided by the Italian firm. But the public version drafted and delivered by the dependency to Contralínea is a compendium of testing, black bars leaving only blank spaces. Barely the title of the document and some words can be read.
To specify what programs the State bought “would harm the techniques and policies used for the recollection of intelligence”, which as a result would leave the CISEN as “a susceptible target of attacks and cyber-threats from antagonist groups to the State, which could carry out actions to infiltrate in the technological structure and thus obtain information of the center”, justified the body about the darkening of the documents, that furthermore were reserved for 12 years-a decision of the National Institute of Transparency and Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (Inai), in an exposition of the Commissioner Joel Salas will have to revoke or reaffirm by resolving the application review accumulated No. 5348/15 and 5349/15.
The CISEN tried hard, but its aim to appease the interest in the topic it drafted a document entitled Platform Status HT, the same that was sent to Contralínea as a negative response to the interview request made.
In this communiqué the Secretariat led by Osorio Chong detailed that the appliance acquired was “the enrolling platform Remote Control System of the manufacturer Hacking Team in its version Da Vinci”.
And it continued: “Da Vinci is a platform for the enrollment mainly of computer equipment Windows and MacOs”. It also ascertained that “the license was renewed annually”.
Such a letter was sent by the own Secretary in charge Osorio Chong months after that he sustained that the topic was of the past and not to the administration of which he is part. “The Italian enterprise Hacking Team describes herself her own technologies as ‘offensive’. The enterprise has been called into question for its sales to Morocco and the United Arab Emirates”, said in 2013 the international organization Reporters Without Borders (RWB) in its report entitled Enemies of the Internet. And it continues:
“According to it, the Remote Control System that has been developed and that has named with modesty Da Vinci is able to break the encryption used by e-mails, files and VOIP protocols.” I.e. the governments that may use it could “watch files and e-mails, even those that use the PGP technology, the Skype conversations and all the other VOIP protocols, as well as instant messaging”.
Also the RWB warns that “this system makes it possible the location of objects and the identification of its contracts, it allows to remotely activate cameras and microphones worldwide; it pretends that its software shall be able to surveil simultaneously hundreds of thousands computers in one country; its Trojan horses can infect Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Symbian and Blackberry”.
The aim could be anyone; any person could be spied with this technology, however for the CISEN these results still were not optimal.
In May 2015, a couple of months before the filtration and the denial by Osorio Chong, HT worked already in an urgent plan to “maximize the efficacy of the attacks” of the CISEN.
In an e-mail sent by Philippe Vinci, Vice-President of Commercial Development to several directions of Hacking Team –among them David Vincenzetti- he exposed the necessity to strengthen the link with the Mexican intelligence body.
In the e-mail made public by Wikileaks, Vinci explained the crisis: “the technical team of the CISEN was only able to realize 18 successful infections in 2014 (12 physical and six remote ones)”. Thus he complained the Italian executive, as the 50 agents in charge of the program (that the Mexicans called Galileo instead of Da Vinci) could not exceed the 2% of efficiency, despite the technical capacity to infect 20 objects weekly, “what is equivalent to over one thousand objectives per year”. Hence the plan consisted in extending to 200 the number of agents busy at the devices provided to Hacking Team.
HT was worried because if the scarce results, the CISEN was threatening with not renewing the contract after 2015. “The risk [for the enterprise] is extremely bad”, alerted Philippe Vinci. And he referred to the “domino effect in other federal dependencies of Mexico: the Federal Police (of the same Secretariat of the Interior) or the SEDENA [Secretariat of the Defense]”. “We are fortunate to keep on going with the CISEN during 2015”, remarked Vinci. And why not, if “Mexico is among the first three contributors of gains in the history of Hacking Team”, despite that the secretary Osorio Chong denied the latter in this government.
Contralínea got in touch with the offices of Hacking Team in Milan with the intention of speaking with David Vincenzatti. Alessandra Mino first, and then Eric Rabe received the requests. HT apologized for not being able to give answers meanwhile the company did not confirm the data revealed in the leaks and rejected the petition.
The invisible contract of 2014
It did not appear in the leaks occurred in July after the onslaught suffered by Hacking Team. Neither is it in the data released by the CISEN. The only reference to the contract of 2014 appears in the e-mails shared by Wikileaks.
On the 23rd of April 2014 the then director of Technological Services of the CISEN, Raúl Villegas Lastra received in his e-mail (email@example.com) some questions on behalf of Alex Velasco, account manager of HT.
“I am reaching to you to obtain the information about the payment that we have not received yet”, he wrote with cordiality the worker of Hacking Team, and asked something more: “In another subject I wanted to ask you about the free quote requested for 1 thousand licenses more. Has any decision been taken about this project?”
The thousand licenses more in which the CISEN was interested in could not be materialized “for budgetary reasons”, said Villegas Lastra. Then the chain mail followed the pending line of payment of the entity for the contract 011/2014, corresponding to 205 million euros.
“We have just received the payment of 153,75 k [sic] for the agreement 011/2014 that corresponds to 75% of the amount of the contract”, informed on the 5th of May 2014 in another e-mail Simoneta Gallucci, assistant of the administrative area.
Security institutions dismiss the relations with HT
It was not only Miguel Ángel Osorio who denied the relations of the Secretariat of the Interior with Hacking Team; the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) and of the Navy (SEMAR), the Attorney’s General Office (PGR), the Federal Police, and the Presidency of the Republic made the same: they assured in written form that they don’t have, haven’t had, nothing to do with the Italian company providing espionage equipment, according to the responses of the requests of information presented by Contralínea through the Federal Law of Transparency and Access to Public Governmental Information (folio 0000700129515, 0000700129615, 0001300044115, 0001300044215, 0001700239915, 0001700240015, 0413100106015, 0413100106115 y 0210000095615).
Likewise, one by one, after having realized “exhaustive researches” and despite that the onslaught on HT left them exposed as assiduous consumers of espionage materials, simply they said no, that there are no documents related with the topic.
The 30th of June 2015, a few days after that Hacking Team was intervened, Daniel Martínez, field engineer of HT, notified what happened to the “associates of Mexico”:
“Gilberto said to me that has been travelling to Israel with the general (for purchases) of the SEDENA and will try to close the deal and obtain the date on which he will buy our system”, told the executive of HT in the e-mail 235075 provided by Wikileaks.
“I can comment to you that it went very well with SEMAR, only that the demo infecting mac and linux failed, even though that the main platforms that they wanted to probe, all worked, so we are also a step ahead, I will return to probe what was missing maybe tomorrow or within 2 weeks depending on their availability” (sic), added Martínez on the 1st of July 2015 (e-mail 1088190).
In his part, Philippe Vinci celebrated that he was only awaiting the confirmation of SEDENA on the invitation made to visit HT in Milan. “The visit has been authorized internally, thus it could work”. The tentative for the tour to happen was the 20th of July. But on the day 6th Hacking Team was hacked.
In the mails of the Italian firm the Federal Police is mentioned (“they will have a lot of catch these days”), the PGR; the governments of the States of Tamaulipas, of Sonora, Puebla, the State of Mexico…
With the leak 14 Mexican entities have been exhibited, putting the country as the best client of Hacking Team.
Mauricio Romero, @mauricio_contra
Traducción: Axel Plasa
Contralínea 461 / del 02 al 08 de Noviembre 2015