David Vincenzetti, who launched Hacking Team in 2003, was arrested when police showed up to his apartment after his cousin called the police, local media reported, because he couldn’t reach his wife on the phone. According to Italian newspaper Il Giorno, the woman was visiting Vincenzetti, who reportedly had psychological issues, to take care of him. Vincenzetti allegedly stabbed the woman, and the police found her unconscious.
When Vincenzetti appeared before the judge, he did not talk about the incident, but rather rambled about work and his companies, prompting the judge to order prosecutors to look into his mental health state, according to La Stampa. The judge also ordered the man to stay in jail as a precautionary measure, the newspaper reported.
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Reached by phone, a telephone operator at the San Vittore prison in Milan, where Vincenzetti is reportedly being held, said they could not confirm if Vincenzetti was a detainee nor allow TechCrunch to speak with any detainee.
Vincenzetti had been out of the public spotlight since 2020, when he declared on his LinkedIn account that Hacking Team was “dead.” A year earlier, Vincenzetti had sold the company, which had rebranded as Memento Labs.
Hacking Team was one of the first companies to develop and sell spyware to governments; initially in Italy, and later all over the world. At its peak, Hacking Team had around 40 government customers, including in Spain, Hungary, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Colombia, Ecuador, South Korea, and Malaysia.
After years of flying under the radar, security researchers found that customers like Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, and Ethiopia had used Hacking Team’s tools to target and hack journalists and dissidents. The company always defended itself, saying it only sold to governments it could legally sell to and that it was not responsible for what the customers did with their tools.
In 2015, a mysterious vigilante hacker known as “Phineas Fisher” hacked Hacking Team and leaked thousands of the company’s internal emails, and — crucially — the spyware’s source code. The catastrophic breach prompted key developers to leave the company and forced the company to ask customers to temporarily stop using its products. Slowly, Hacking Team began losing customers, attempted to rebrand, sold part of its share to Saudi investors, and eventually was sold to new management.