Andy Greenberg over at Wired has a fine profile of former Google hacker and human rights champion Morgan Marquis-Boire (aka “Morgan Mayhem”), who is now working for the start-up publication First Look Media
Marquis-Boire is an expert in malware analysis, with particular expertise in analyzing the software that oppressive regimes use to spy on journalists, human rights activists and political dissidents. At First Look, he will be devoting his talents to defending what Greenberg calls “an endangered species: American national security journalists.”
First Look is a nascent, independent online media startup founded by eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar. The site is best known as the (new) home of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, and the launch pad for whatever secrets are still hidden in the trove of information Edward Snowden leaked to Greenwald.
According to Greenberg, Marquis-Boire was hired away from Google and given the task of safeguarding those documents as well as the work of Greenwald and others. “I look at the risk posed to individuals in the real world,” Marquis-Boire tells Greenberg “In human rights and journalism, the consequences of communications being compromised are imprisonment, physical violence, and even death. These types of users need security assistance in a very real sense.”
Marquis-Boire’s past work includes collaboration with Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto on their analysis of Finfisher, a commercial spying tool sold by the UK firm Gamma Group and acquired by oppressive regimes, like Egypt’s. He has also analyzed the function and use of hacking kits from commercial firms like Italy’s Hacking Team.
The use of commercial and underground hacking kits as tools of surveillance and oppression is well documented. In 2013, the human rights group Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) singled out Syria, China, Iran, Bahrain and Vietnam as nations that were known to spy on their citizens online activities. Those nations often used tools from firms like Gamma, Hacking Team and others to do their dirty work. RSF’s report called for stricter export limits on the sale of such tools.