The most consequential war in future times will likely not be fought on the battlefield, but through cyberspace. Modern spy technologies will play a key role in this endeavor. They're more sophisticated than ever before, and easily attainable to anyone who can meet the price. This is fertile ground for a new breed of terrorists who crave the power to corrupt any individual's privacy, steal the most closely guarded government secrets, and cripple entire countries with a few clicks of a mouse. Al Jazeera Investigations explores the inner workings of this nefarious underworld in their documentary Spy Merchants.
The vendors that deal in these highly advanced surveillance technologies do not discriminate when seeking a buyer. Potential clients might include a hostile government, a bloodthirsty arms dealer, or an organization with a history of shameful human rights abuses. Many of these spyware companies are incredibly adept at evading every regulation and sanction that stands in their way.
The filmmakers call upon the expertise of an anonymous insider in an attempt to uncover how easily these deals can be made, and for what purposes these technologies are employed. The mole approaches two Italian security firms with bogus propositions. First, he expresses an interest in purchasing a state-of-the-art mobile spyware system for deployment in the Sudan. In the second instance, he lobbies for the shipping of a powerful internet tracking device to Iran. These technologies can wreck havoc on the lives of millions, and destabilize each region to a catastrophic degree. Iran and the Sudan are both highly combustible and heavily sanctioned destinations. Will the sellers be willing to overlook the buyer's questionable motives and do what it takes to close the deal?
With the use of hidden cameras, the filmmakers are able to trace every step of these shady dealings. We witness every loophole that allows these firms to function with impunity. We dissect their methods for wooing a potential client, and their avoidance of any ethical consideration along the way. Most disturbingly, we discover that top-ranking government officials may be complicit in many of their crooked operations.
The culmination of a four-month investigation, Spy Merchants takes us deep inside a criminal enterprise in pulse-pounding fashion.