Dutch police allegedly use spy software

The company Gamma International has been hacked by a digital activists organization, who released a massive amount of technical and client information from the company online yesterday. The German-British company that sells spy software to governments and detection authorities, also had the Dutch police as a client, De Volkskrant reports. 

Gamma International is the maker of FinFisher, a software program that infect computers and allows users to copy files, make screenshots, and record keystrokes. It was used by, among others, the government of Bahrain to spy on the computer activity of dissidents during the Arab Spring.

The hack is a great victory for citizens' rights activists, as the program FinFisher and the company Gamma International came under fire when it became known that governments used their services to spy on people. Activists are pleading for export rules for similar software.

The Netherlands police also appears to have used the software. Dutch hacker Jurre van Bergen inspected the publicized information together with other experts and discovered an encryption code in the hacked client files that belongs to a member of the Nationale Eenheid, the national police in Driebergen.

According to Van Bergen, this client, who is probably Dutch police, used three software programs made by Gamma, with licenses running from 2012 to 2015.

De Volkskrant writes that it is illegal for police to use long-distance hacking procedures to hack into and take over suspect computers. This may change in a new law (Computer Criminality Law III), which will be established soon.

According to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Security and Justice, the current law states that spy software is allowed to be used by the police, but only on the spot, not from a distance. It may also not be used to follow the computer activities live from a distance.

In 2012, Rejo Zenger of digital citizens' rights organization Bits of Freedom, submitted a Freedom of Information request to the police, asking about the use of spyware. At that time, he received the answer that no documents pertaining to the use of spyware were found. Zenger tells De Volkskrant that the police have always denied the use of this kind of software, and that it is strange that the police use this software already, even though the law that is supposed to allow it hasn't been ratified yet.