Minister: No proof surveillance software, server used in Malaysia

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KUALA LUMPUR: There is no proof that the FinFisher server exists or has been used in Malaysia to monitor the activities of Malaysians or people around the world. This is because such an act of surveillance is a violation of the country’s law, Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek told Sivarasa Rasiah (PKR-Subang) in a written reply.

He said the ministry has always encouraged all parties to continue adopting measures to ensure their data and information are safe from hacking or attacks by using anti-malware or anti-virus software.

Sivarasa had asked whether the ministry used FinSpy software produced by FinFisher, a company in Germany, to watch over Malaysians, following a report released by Toronto-based The Citizen Lab in May last year that a FinFisher server was found in Malaysia.

The report was released against the backdrop of disclosure by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA), that the agency had engaged in numerous global surveillance programmes that enabled it to mine data and monitor social media networks in real time.

The initial report entitled: “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialisation of Digital Spying” was released in March last year. The findings of the report were reported by The New York Times and subsequently picked up by The Malaysian Insider.

The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission issued a statement to rebut the claim that the government was spying on its people. However, on May 1 last year, The Citizen Lab reportedly found a FinSpy malware attached to a document entitled: “Senarai cadangan calon PRU ke-13 mengikut negeri” (The list of 13th general election candidates according to states).

According to the report, when a victim opens the attachment, his or her computer will be infected by FinSpy. The Citizen Lab also found that the structure of the document was similar to the one used in attacks against Bahrain activists, but it did not conclude that the Malaysian government had purchased or used the software to spy on its people.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on Aprill 4, 2014.