German police have canceled scheduled training for Egyptian security officials on the monitoring of extremist websites on Thursday, citing concerns by the government that “these skills could be used to target other groups” and internet users, according to a report by the Associated Press.
According to AP, the training included cybercrime management, monitoring of websites that encourage extremist thought, and preparation for terrorist operations. The report did not mention when the training was scheduled.
Over the last year, the Egyptian government has blocked a number of news websites, and platforms that offer VPN services. A report by the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) estimated that the number of blocked websites has reached 434.
A report published in the French Telerama Magazine revealed that the United Arab Emirates had bought a mass cyber-surveillance software developed by French digital arms dealer Amesys. The €10 million software was then gifted to Egypt by the UAE government, the purchase contract being signed in March 2014.
The software offers live monitoring of targets through their electronic devices, as well as storing descriptive data of their activities, identifying which devices were used to access certain online websites. The software also enables the monitoring of telephone conversations, emails, text messages, chat rooms and social networking websites.
The contract, which Telerama reportedly had access to, revealed that the deal was signed by two intermediate companies: the first being a French company called Nexa, and the Dubai-based Middle East Advanced Systems. The latter delivered the software to Egyptian military intelligence, according to Telerama.
The data sources of the software have not yet been activated, according to an unnamed source quoted by Telerama, but is expected to be activated by the end of this year, facilitating the process of data analysis and archiving.
A previous investigation by Mada Masr revealed attempts by the Egyptian government attempts at mass online surveillance through the development of a new system to intercept online communication en masse.
Technical experts and digital security activists told Mada Masr that there have been confirmed attempts to create “disturbances that have completely or partially disabled the encryption services widely used by commercial and civil services and individuals to secure the flow of their data.”
They also noted the repeated disturbances of internet activities in Egypt, which points to the new system built by the Egyptian government.