David Vincenzetti, ex-CEO and co-founder of the Italian spy software company “Hacking Team”, declared the company “dead” in a posting on its official LinkedIn profile. “Hacking Team is dead. Definitely dead,” it said in a post published yesterday.
A few hours later, Vincenzetti apparently felt the need to clarify this statement: in another posting he pointed to the Hacking Team’s LinkedIn profile page points out that he had already sold the company last year and shortly afterwards completely dropped out. He no longer deals with what he calls “attack security” and has no plans to do so again in the future. Vincenzetti did not want to answer any further questions about his statements (or about the motives for them) and would also no longer use LinkedIn in the future.
Steep career with a deep fall
Hacking Team, founded in Milan in 2003, developed surveillance software for governments, authorities and companies, similar to the NSO Group or FinFisher – at times with great success. The team also included states with dubious human rights situations among its customers.
In 2015, the hacking team itself fell victim to a hack, which resulted in a massive loss of trust and customers. Espionage tools and internal company documents were leaked; shortly afterwards, Wikileaks published more than a million confidential emails.
The hacking team disappeared, despite the announcement of a planned restart, and only became visible again in April 2019, when the surveillance company InTheCyber largely bought the company and merged the two companies under the name Memento Labs. 20 percent, so wrote the news platform Vice, went to an anonymous saudi arabian investor. Vincenzetti got out.
Successor Memento Labs struck
Memento Labs, for its part, only landed on Reporters Without Borders’ list of the “20 greatest enemies of the Internet” in March this year. However, as Reporter Without Borders describes it, “the company has recently largely stayed out of the headlines.”
The hacking team successor has not (yet) declared himself dead. Nevertheless, it is quite possible that the “death announcement” of the hacking team published by Vincenzetti also refers to its successor: Descriptions of former employees of Memento Labs in a current Vice article paint the picture of a troubled, currently not competitive company.
The problems are based, among other things, on disputes with Vincenzetti employees who are still loyal, excessive salary demands and a lack of staff. There is a lack of technical competence among management and remaining employees. Above all, the code of the former hacking team’s flagship product, the “Remote Control System” (RCS) monitoring software, urgently needs a general overhaul, according to the ex-employees. The software is basically the same as the one that was leaked in 2015 (at least in parts) and was only updated in a makeshift manner so that it would continue to work.
All of this shows that Vincenzetti’s plans for a new RCS development announced five years ago after the hack turned into nothing – and makes the “resurrection” of the hacking team as memento labs at least tedious, if not doubtful.