Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, is reportedly taking on a controversial surveillance company that has been accused of selling spyware to authoritarian regimes, by asserting trademark infringement claims.
Gamma Group, a British company, offers governments and law enforcement agencies spy Trojan programs that are designed to covertly infiltrate computers and gather data from hard drives, eavesdrop on Skype chats and other communications, and conduct "live surveillance through webcam and microphone," according to the company's marketing materials.
The technology is supposed to be used solely to target criminals such as terrorists. However, a mounting body of evidence has linked it to attacks on activists or political opposition figures from countries including Bahrain and Ethiopia.
Last year, researchers had noticed that the spy tool had apparently been masking itself as Mozilla Firefox—tricking targeted users into thinking it was a legitimate application.
Mozilla has confirmed that it is planning to imminently issue a cease-and-desist notice to Gamma over what it alleges is a “misrepresentation of our copyright and trademarks.”
The development will come as another blow to Gamma, which was recently branded a “corporate enemy of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders and is also currently the focus of ongoing legal action in the United Kingdom related to its spy tech sales.
The company’s spokesman, Martin Muench, has previously stated that Gamma cooperates with export control agencies in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and “does not discuss its client base, its exports, or any of the operations which its clients may or may not be undertaking” on the grounds that doing so can “prejudice criminal or counter terror investigations and compromise the security of the members of the police or security services involved.”