The controversial Swedish forensic technology company MSAB receives harsh criticism in a new research report published by the American think tank Atlantic Council. The reason is that the company has marketed its cutting-edge products in the authoritarian countries of China and Russia. – It is surprising that they market themselves so aggressively in Russia, says one of the report’s authors, Lars Gjesvik, a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Foreign Policy Nupi.
The Swedish listed Micro Systemation AB, also called MSAB, develops various types of forensic solutions.
Their main product XRY is used to extract and analyze information found in mobile phones and tablets.
The program can also decrypt information and recover deleted files.
The software and technology have been sold to countries around the world.
Atlantic Council is a think tank that works with security issues concerning the United States, NATO and Europe.
The recent report examines how security companies in the Western world that specialize in digital surveillance technology over the past 20 years have participated in and marketed themselves at military and police fairs in authoritarian countries.
According to the recent report “Surveillance Technology at the fair”, there is a great risk that government clients that the companies market themselves against use the technology to monitor oppositional and marginalized sections of the population.
The report also points to the risk that state-of-the-art technology can be used to threaten security in the United States and NATO countries.
Pointed out as one of five companies
In the report, five companies in particular are identified as “irresponsible” disseminators of technical knowledge and capabilities.
One of the five is Swedish MSAB, which is criticized for having marketed sensitive technology to China and Russia.
– We have chosen to flag those companies because we see these fairs as particularly problematic when it comes to violations of human rights – and potentially for national security for western states, says Lars Gjesvik.
Among other things, the researchers have gone through the database of participant lists that the organization Omega Foundation has of international fairs with a focus on the military and weapons.
– When it comes to MSAB, it is human rights violations that are a challenge, says Lars Gjesvik.
MSAB has participated in the Russian military fair Interpolitex between the years 2015 and 2018. They have also participated in a police fair in China in 2016.
Won “several significant deals”
According to MSAB’s annual reports, the company established itself in Russia as early as 2012 and they won “several significant deals” the following year.
In 2020, MSAB had revenues of approximately SEK 45 million for the business area known as Russia and Asia.
Until the autumn of 2020, the company also had a Chinese subsidiary and employees in China.
SVT has sought MSAB’s CEO Joel Bollo for an interview.
The company declines the interview but writes in a comment that they have now withdrawn from Russia.
“The purpose of our products is to strengthen the rule of law and thus democratic development and human rights.”
MSAB also writes that they suspect that their products have been “misused” in some countries.
“This is also the reason why we no longer sell to countries such as Russia, China, Hong Kong and Myanmar,” the company writes.