FinFisher spyware used by governments around the world is disguised as Firefox, and Mozilla is not happy about it

Firefox Logo Branded

FinFisher, also known as FinSpy, is a piece of malware developed by Gamma International and sold to governments of 36 different countries (the US included) to monitor the activities of computer users. The spyware was originally designed to aid with criminal investigations, but there have been reports that say it has been used for more than just to catch criminals, such as to monitor the activities of dissidents or [insert label here].

As if FinFisher was not conterversial enough already, more fuel and been added to the fire thanks to recent developments. Mozilla, the maker of the popular Firefox browser, has issued a cease-and-desist letter to Gamma International because Mozilla alleges FinFisher is packaged to look like the Firefox browser.

In a blog post released yesterday, Mozilla revealed key points from the cease-and-desist letter and outlined the measures they’re taking to put an end to Gamma’s software fraud.

A recent report by Citizen Lab uncovered that commercial spyware produced by Gamma International is designed to trick people into thinking it’s Mozilla Firefox. We’ve sent Gamma a cease and desist letter today demanding that these illegal practices stop immediately.

The spyware software is not related to Firefox at all, aside from the illegal branding. So Firefox users don’t have to worry about contracting the spyware through their browser, at least not any more than usual. The spyware does, however, damage the reputation of Mozilla and Firefox by parading around with a false label.

Mozilla says the spyware “uses [their] brand and trademarks to lie and mislead as one of its methods for avoiding detection and deletion. It’s also “used by Gamma’s customers to violate citizens’ human rights and online privacy.”

As an open source project trusted by hundreds of millions of people around the world, defending Mozilla’s trademarks from this type of abuse is vital to our brand, our users and the continued success of our mission.

The Citizen Lab report unveils how the spyware was discovered, and where many of the command and control servers are located. For reference, Citizen Lab discovered the control servers in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Ethiopia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.

Personally, I’m deeply troubled by this news. In regards to the internet, many of our rights are coming under fire and lots of people are blissfully unaware of it. In this case, a company is impersonating a reputable source in order to get away with some rather heinous things, and at the hands of several government organizations no less.

I highly recommend you visit the source links below and read a little more about the subject. There’s also a New York Times article which is particularly interesting because it talks in depth about how the spyware was discovered and what it is used for by governments.

[via Citizen Lab, Ars Technica, Mozilla]

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