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Do Polish secret services use tools for the remote control of computers and phones?

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights has filed access to public information motions with the Internal Security Agency and the Central Anti-corruption Bureau, requesting the agencies to disclose whether they operationally use Remote Control System (RCS) software.

The RCS is capable of monitoring computers and telephones and may acquire data stored on such devices even if a user is offline. The system can also be used to track online correspondence. The RCS may copy files from a computer’s hard drive, record Skype conversations, intercept passwords entered in a browser and remotely turn on a web camera or a computer’s microphone.

The scientists affiliated with The Citizen Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory operating at the University of Toronto, Canada, published on 14 February 2014 a report titled “Mapping Hacking Team’s ‘Untraceable’ Spyware”, which analysed the use of the RCS. The report reads that the system is offered for sale to governments by Hacking Team, a Milan-based company. The document names twenty-one governments, including those of Azerbaijan, Columbia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Hungary, Turkey, Morocco and also Poland.

According to Hacking Team, the RCS has been designed to fight crime and terrorism. In its report, The Citizen Lab noted that in certain cases the use of RCS may lead to serious abuses of human rights.

“We have become interested in the use of the RCS because of a wider strategy of the Foundation focusing on violations of human rights, including the right to privacy, caused by operations of secret services. The Foundation handles a number of cases involving access to public information on the use of the GPS system and eavesdropping, technical measures applied as part of covert investigative methods”, says Dr Adam Bodnar, Deputy President of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. “Moreover, we have cases pending before administrative courts in which we assert our right to access public information on Polish secret services using US mass surveillance clandestine programmes”, adds Dr Bodnar.

The agencies have a statutory term of 14 days to respond to the motions.

To view The Citizen Lab report, use this link.

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