It is the size of a small suitcase and can be placed discreetly in the back of a car. When the device is powered up, it begins secretly monitoring hundreds of cellphones in the vicinity, recording people’s private conversations and vacuuming up their text messages.
The device is one of several spy tools manufactured by a Chinese company called Semptian, which has supplied the equipment to authoritarian governments in the Middle East and North Africa, according to two sources with knowledge of the company’s operations.
As The Intercept first reported on Thursday, since 2015, Semptian has been using American technology to help build more powerful surveillance and censorship equipment, which it sells to governments under the guise of a front company called iNext.
Semptian is collaborating with IBM and leading U.S. chip manufacturer Xilinx to advance a breed of microprocessors that enable computers to analyze vast amounts of data more quickly. The Chinese firm is a member of an American organization called the OpenPower Foundation, which was founded by Google and IBM executives with the aim of trying to “drive innovation.”
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