BANGKOK – The Bangkok Post has reported data provided by Wikileaks that between 2013 and 2014, Thailand’s’ police and army purchased spyware that would enable them to monitor “hundreds of thousands” of computers and mobile phones within the kingdom, according to a report published Sunday.
The purchases coincide with the country’s military coup of 2014 that saw Thai army chief — and now prime minister — General Prayuth Chan-ocha overthrow the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.
The Bangkok Post said Wikileaks released information showing that the Singaporean, Malaysian and Vietnamese governments also bought malware systems from an Italian company named Hacking Team.
“Once the malware was installed, hackers have control [of devices such as computers and mobile phones] and are able to monitor everything that can happen,” Andrew Smith, a UK-based computer forensics expert, told the Post.
“If they wanted to, they can take complete control, including being able to delete or plant evidence on a device,” he added.
On July 8, Wikileaks released more than one million searchable emails sent or received by the company, after Hacking Team was itself hacked July 5 and its servers disabled.
The Post reported that the emails reveal that Thai police bought the malware system from the Italian company for $310,000 in 2013, while the Thai army purchased a malware system named Galileo in 2014 for $390,000.
On Sunday, Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara told the Post that the use of such spyware by police or the army would be “a violation of democratic principles”.
“The state does not have the right to threaten the privacy of individuals,” he added. “Thailand needs to be aware that it is at risk of violating the right to privacy and freedom of expression, under the disguise of ‘national security’ concerns.”
Army spokesman Colonel Winthai Suwaree of course told the Bangkok Post that he “was not aware of the purchase”.
Hacking Team advertises its spyware as tools to fight crime and terrorism.
On its website, it says it will refuse to provide or will stop supporting technologies to governments or their agencies it believes have used its technology to facilitate gross human rights abuses.