Activist company

Creepy Spyware Company Goes Bankrupt

FinFisher is no more. Long accused of helping authoritarian governments spy on dissidents and political activists, the creepy surveillance firm has abruptly shut down amid an ongoing investigation into its business dealings.

On Monday, Bloomberg reported that the Munich-based spyware firm had closed its offices after quietly filing for insolvency last February.

The company, known for its powerful and invasive malware “FinSpy”, has been under investigation by the German government since 2019 over allegations that it illegally sold spyware to the Turkish government without acquiring the export license required. The spyware was reportedly used to monitor the phones of political activists around the country.

The company’s implosion last month is likely to be investigated by German officials. At the time of the insolvency announcement, the authorities were in the process of applying for permission to seize assets allegedly “obtained from an illegal act”. Although the investigation is ongoing, the seizure of the assets will no longer be possible since the company no longer exists.

“Employees are no longer employed in companies,” a German government administrator told the outlet. “The business premises were abandoned during the opening of the insolvency proceedings and the companies’ headquarters in Munich were dissolved, as there was no prospect of further business activities.”

Since its inception, FinFisher’s products have been sold to police and intelligence agencies around the world, including, allegedly, repressive regimes. In 2012, the discovery of FinFisher malware on the phones of Bahraini activists sparked significant controversy, illustrating the invasive potential the commercial surveillance industry had to offer.

In 2018, digital rights group Access Now published a report alleging the existence of company spyware on the phones of political activists in Turkey. In September 2019, a number of advocacy groups filed a criminal complaint against the company in Germany, accusing it of illegally selling spyware to the Turkish government. Although FinFisher officials denied the allegations, the German prosecution later opened a criminal investigation, and in October 2020 German authorities raided more than a dozen offices linked to the company, including apartments belonging to many of its leaders.

FinFisher officials maintained that the company’s products have never been used for anything other than legitimate law enforcement purposes.