Tech

Ex-Wirecard board member Marsalek is said to have initiated the purchase of sniffing software

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A new, bizarre-looking detail about the alleged business of ex-Wirecard board member Jan Marsalek has become known: The manager, who has since gone into hiding, may have tried to buy spy software from the Italian provider Hacking Team. Marsalek is said to have received a software demonstration at the company’s Milan headquarters in November 2013, reports the mirror and the US magazine Motherboard. But that did not happen in his role at Wirecard – rather, Marsalek pretended to be a representative of the Caribbean state of Grenada.

Hacking Team, founded in Milan in 2003, developed surveillance software for governments and authorities, similar to NSO Group or FinFisher – at times with great success. The team also counted countries with dubious human rights situations among its customers. In 2015, the hacking team fell victim to a hack, which resulted in a massive loss of trust and customers. Espionage tools and internal company documents were leaked; shortly afterwards, Wikileaks published more than a million confidential emails. The documents come from this freely accessible database, on the yourself mirror and Motherboard called.

According to one of the internal mails Hacking Team is said to have had a “fruitful meeting” with a Mr. Jan Marsalek on November 27, 2013. This would describe his impressions to the officials of Grenada – and if the answer is positive, there will be feedback in three weeks, it said. An ex-employee from the hacking team confirmed to the mirrorto have received mails in which the name Marsalek was mentioned.

Marsalek was introduced to the company in a letter dated October 2013 as “representative” of Grenada. The letter had the appearance of official stationery and also bore the signature of the then foreign minister of Grenada, Nickolas Steele. It confirms that Grenada’s government is interested in the hacking team’s smartphone monitoring platform and approves the surveillance of some devices for demonstration purposes.

Compared to the mirror Steele explained that the letter was not genuine. “I have certainly never made such a request,” he said. However, Steele actually had a business meeting with Marsalek in summer 2013 – it was about a proposal for payment technology from Wirecard. A business did not grow out of it. The boss of the middleman Encryptechs mentioned in the letter also explained this mirrorto have nothing to do with the matter: “You used my company name without permission.”

In addition, the report also states that the official-looking domain stateofgrenada.org was set up in advance – in summer 2013. Namely, in the name of Jan Marsaleks, some of which contained his private address or even a Wirecard telephone number. Correspondingly, there was also the email address Jan.Marsalek@stateofgrenada.org.

This camouflage could probably be an attempt to circumvent the hacking team’s premise of only selling its own software to states. A business did not come about despite the complex masquerade: Paolo Lezzi, head of the hacking team successor company Memento Labs, told Spiegel that there was no contract with Grenada or Jan Marsalek. And the then hacking team boss David Vincenzetti let the news magazine know that there was never a meeting of company representatives with a Jan Marsalek or representatives of Grenadas.

Ultimately, the documents only show the use of a name. It is open whether it was Jan Marsalek personally who presented the benefits of the hacking team spyware, or whether one or more other people used his name. And if it was Marsalek, it remains unclear what he could have done with the software. Reports describe that he had good contacts with the Russian military service GRU and that he had bragged to business partners with information from intelligence circles. Among other things, he was said to have had strictly confidential documents that gave the secret formula for the neurotoxin Novichok.