Gamma International, a British security firm with ostensibly few scruples, has been accused of developing surveillance software which intentionally masquerades as Firefox. The program's unauthorized similarities to Mozilla's well-known browser prompted the organization to issue a cease-and-desist notice in an effort to protect the integrity of its brand.
The Mozilla Foundation discovered Gamma unsavory Firefox clone through Citizen Lab, an organization who remains active in areas intersecting computer science, research and politics. Citizen Lab's report, subtitled "The commercialization of digital spying" (pdf) shows evidence of Gamma's seemingly willful IP violation. Check out pages between 107 and 111 for more detail.
Gamma's Firefox knock-off appears to be a variation of FinSpy / FinFisher -- spyware thought to be commonly (and covertly) used by governments for surveillance purposes. Just as a virus might, the spyware's payload replaces Firefox's legitimate binary (Firefox.exe) with its own customized version, allowing a command and control center to spy on unsuspecting users. The firm actually touts the program's ability to be secretly deployed, encouraging its use by police and intelligence agencies.
Worse yet, it also appears Gamma blatantly copied Firefox's MPL-licensed code. "For an expert user who examines the underlying code of the installed spyware," Mozilla notes. "Gamma includes verbatim the assembly manifest from Firefox software." Mozilla's MPL license affords many freedoms to third-party developers, but it does not grant the right to copy trademarks or otherwise patented properties.
Gamma's ironic subversion of Mozilla's Firefox brand has the foundation up in arms, particularly since Mozilla is a staunch advocate for Internet freedom and privacy rights -- ideals which Gamma likely doesn't find itself in alignment with.
"We cannot abide a software company using our name to disguise online surveillance tools that can be – and in several cases actually have been – used by Gamma's customers to violate citizens' human rights and online privacy," Mozilla's Alex Fowler stated.
Gamma has not yet issued a response.
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