FinFisher software found to spy on Bahraini activists

The market for such surveillance tools estimated at $5 billion a year.

Finspy, a computer espionage product manufactured by the Gamma Group, a British company that sells surveillance technology, has come under scrutiny since researchers have found governments are using it to monitor dissidents.

The spyware has been advertised as a tool to help agencies track down pedophiles and criminals. The program can take control of a range of mobile devices, track its location and monitor emails, text messages and voice calls, according to reported. It has been engineered to fly under the radar of antivirus software.

Researchers discovered suspicious emails sent to Bahraini activists contained spyware that reported back to the same command-and-control server in Bahrain, suggesting that the technology has served broader uses, the New York Times reported. Research now links it to servers in over a dozen countries, including Turkmenistan, Brunei and Bahrain.

The findings highlight how a growing market of off-the-shelf surveillance and law enforcement software tools are being used to monitor civilians in repressive regimes. The market for such surveillance technologies is estimated at $5 billion a year, according to the Times.