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September 5, 2019 - Updated on October 8, 2019

Spyware exports in Turkey: RSF Germany denounces the German company FinFisher

Credit: alliance / chromorange
RSF Germany along with NGOs go after FinFisher for illegally selling spyware in Turkey and call for worldwide reinforcement of the regulations governing surveillance technology exports.



The Society for Civil Rights (GFF), Reporters Without Borders Germany (RSF Germany), the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the blog Netzpolitik.org have filed a criminal lawsuit against the German company FinFisher for exporting the spyware FinSpy to Turkey without export license.The public prosecution in Munich, where the FinFisher Company is based, has opened an investigation into the case.

A FinSpy sample found on a Turkish website built the basis for this lawsuit. The Turkish government planted the spyware on a fake version of the Turkish oppositional website Adalet. While the original Adalet website was intended to help activists coordinate during the protest marches in summer 2017 against president Erdogan, the fake version of the Adalet website, offered users a networking application that, once installed, infected their devices with the FinSpy malware.

”It is outrageous and unacceptable to see German spyware being used against journalists and oppositional voices in Turkey“, says Christian Mihr, Executive Director of Reporters without Borders Germany. “This, once again, illustrates the deficiencies of the European export regime of surveillance technology and the dire need for its reform”, he continues.

When used and installed on a recipient’s mobile device, FinSpy enables government authorities access to telephone and VoIP conversations, data systems, screenshots and other photos, GPS data, microphones and connection data as well as to various applications. Consequently, it constitutes a great threat to activists and journalists as it fully exposes their communication with contacts and sources.

Several independent analysts conducted a forensic examination of the malware sample found in Turkey and came to the conclusion that it is a new version of FinSpy. Moreover, time stamps in the code clearly show that this FinSpy malware could not have been coded nor exported before October 2016.

Yet, since 2015, the European Dual-Use regulation as well as the German Foreign Trade and Payments Act require companies to obtain a licence when exporting surveillance technology outside of the EU. The German government has confirmed that it has not granted a single export license for intrusion software since 2015. In Germany, even maintenance and updates of software are subject to licensing. In exporting FinSpy to Turkey FinFisher was acting in clear violation of both German Law and EU regulations, thereby committing a criminal offense.

To download the full text of RSF Germany, click here


For more information, please contact Jennifer Schiementz at [email protected]  or under +49 30 609 895 33 55