Earlier this month, a diverse crowd of government agents, private developers and hackers from around the world gathered at a Hilton in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, to get a firsthand look at some of the world’s most cutting edge cyber warfare and surveillance technologies.
Shows are held every few months in countries around the world. They are organized and run by Jerry Lucas, president of TeleStrategic Inc., a McLean, Va.-based producer of telecommunications conferences.
Bloomberg reported the show attracted high-profile vendors such as Italy’s Area SpA, Germany’s Utimaco Safeware AG (USA) and FinFisher, Prague’s Trovicor GmbH. They promoted their products through displays, conferences and networking.
The “invite only” roster featured 871 individuals from 56 countries, setting the scene for an underground secretive network.
At the events, merchants showcase their electronic interception tools to buyers from governments around the world, some of which include Greece, Turkey, Thailand, Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
The events draw police involved in criminal investigations, surveillance and counter terrorism efforts, Lucas said. Phone company executives come out too, as every communication network hosts wiretapping and tracking capabilities in times of emergencies.
In June of this year, ISS World held a conference in Prague. Bloomberg reported that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation, buyers from Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry and India’s cabinet secretariat were among the government agencies present at the event.
Lucas said he has banned government representatives from Syria and Iran ISS events, but Bloomberg has found this hasn’t stopped these countries from attaining some of the same surveillance gear featured at ISS.
Because of the type of business, secretive underground cybersecurity conferences composed of a melting pot of nations from around the globe is accepted as the nature of the beast.
One might wonder what the environment is like at a convention filled with elite cyber hackers and high ranking surveillance officials. Bloomberg reported that paranoia lingers in the air at every moment, as attendees are pre-warned to limit cyber activity and communication to safeguard private information.
The conference is all business. No extravagant dinners, trips or cocktail parties. Bloomberg reported that “clients and suppliers don’t want to be seen with each other in public,” as the event is seen as a potential recruiting ground for spies looking for sources.
The conference was on cell phone tracking, social network investigations, deep packet inspection, internet application decoding, call data retention and cyber surveillance, according to an online brochure for the event.
The event was composed of various workshops and seminars called “tracks,” specializing in special areas of cybersecurity and surveillance. The general registration fee for vendors was between $1,995 and $2,295 and participant fees ranged from $995 to $1,295.
As cyber hacking and surveillance systems continue to develop, the demand for cutting-edge technology to assist law enforcement personnel and combat cyber warfare is at an all high demand.
Lucas said business is booming with a nearly 20 percent increase every year, according to Bloomberg. Annual revenues were between $3 billion and $5 billion, and show no sign of slowing down.