In the secretive world of surveillance technology, he goes just by his initials: MJM.
His mystique is such that other security professionals avoid using wireless Internet near him. MJM himself suggests that those he meets allay their paranoia by taking batteries out of their mobile phones.
MJM — Martin J. Muench — is the developer of Andover, U.K.-based Gamma Group’s FinFisher intrusion software, which he sells to police and spy agencies around the world for monitoring computers and smartphones to intercept Skype calls, peer through Web cameras and record keystrokes.
In the past year, the hacker-turned-executive has himself been under attack as the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings unravelled the cloak of secrecy he’d operated behind.
FinFisher’s once-elusive FinSpy tool has been exposed targeting activists from the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain; decoded for the first time by computer-virus hunters; placed under export control by the U.K.; and traced to countries with poor human rights records, such as Turkmenistan in Central Asia.
As evidence mounts that repressive regimes routinely use surveillance gear to track and capture dissidents, FinSpy has been singled out as one of the most invasive weapons. The attention has subjected Muench to death threats, he says, and government scrutiny.