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The "Spying" Program on Cellular Subscribers: Immediate Waste or Success?

Updated on February 13, 2020
Touch technicians alerted management not to wait for NEXIUS to develop its product while ready products are on the market (Haitham Al-Mousawi)
Touch technicians alerted management not to wait for NEXIUS to develop its product while ready products are on the market (Haitham Al-Mousawi)

Alpha has not put the new DPI product, which is designed to monitor subscriber behavior in cellular data, until now, despite two years since a company has been obligated to "build it" under a consensual contract. According to the information, the product is still under development, while some people question whether it can be operated originally, which raises a big question regarding the money spent. Meanwhile, Touch, in turn, is still postponing the purchase of this product, which has become a mandatory option in the telecommunications infrastructure, experts say. And while "Touch" says that the reason for the delay is related to operating expenses, there are people who suspect that the reason is waiting for the "completion" of the product! In conclusion, the two companies that excluded the tender option to solicit the best offers, under the pretext of "encouraging national production and not buying the product from foreign companies, most of which are associated with Israeli companies", are still waiting for a company to complete its product in order to buy it from them. Their choice is at stake. Either the "national company" will succeed soon, or "Alpha" has wasted millions of dollars in public money.

About three million dollars paid by Alfa two years ago to NEXIUS, under a consensual contract, in exchange for a deep packet inspection (DPI) product that allows the registration of all applications and sites visited by the phone holder and used by them and those with whom it communicates through unencrypted applications.

When NEXIUS got the money, its product was under development and not ready yet, when Alpha’s stakeholders who told Al-Akhbar in February last year admitted that they had prepaid the company. And while the "Alpha" sources confirmed at the time that the product was available to it, and "entered the trial phase to make adjustments to it, in preparation for its startup within two or three months" ( see Communications Grotto: a suspicious deal and fears of a security breach. Who is monitoring the cellular "Data"? ), Information indicates that the aforementioned product is still "under development", after "Nexius failed to operate it," according to informed sources who confirmed that the security services that tried it were found to be ineffective and to "not being able to characterize it as originally DPI," while a security official said. The product does not meet the requirements of the security services.

The sources clarified that Alfa still relies on the old DPI product it has purchased since 2015 and that is operated by SANDVINE, stating that the company (Alfa) still until the moment is answering the requests of the security services using the old product. Does this mean that Alfa wasted three million dollars on a product that has not yet been completed?

In connection with Al-Akhbar, Alfa sources indicated that the product is ready and "put into service", stating that it has not been renewed for the old company "and NEXIUS is scheduled to take over the operation of its product early next month." She emphasized that the company had not paid in advance, "rather that the amount mentioned is the value of the signed contract and the payment made in relation to the stages of implementation." This was also confirmed by one of the founders of NEXIUS Company, Samir Talib, to Al-Akhbar, indicating that the product is “walking.” The matter can be confirmed by those involved in “Alfa”.

However, the sources quoted staff within the "Alpha" complaining of "NEXIUS" inability to put the product into service during the next short period, stating that the company is still experimenting with the product and financing the implementation stages, despite the passage of two and a half years since the signing of the consensual contract. She explained that the money paid by Alpha during that period “exceeds three million dollars that the company recognizes,” wondering about the reasons that prevented breaking the contract with the company and organizing a tender to solicit better offers, which is a valid question to be put to those involved in the touch.

Touch Is Still Waiting

A year after the signing of the consensual contract between Alpha and NEXIUS, the latter sought to market and sell its product to the company «Touch», which is still studying the offer.

According to information, Touch has not yet been made on any step related to seeking to find an alternative from the company to obtain the product, knowing that its technicians "Touch" confirmed in a book to the administration a year ago that "Touch does not have the product DPI yet And she does not have the luxury of waiting for the company to develop it at a time when there are a lot of ready-made products available on the market", raising the issue of “Nexius has not yet (in late January) failed to develop the DPI and hand it over to Alfa”. Does "Touch" intentionally ignore its urgent need for the product, pending the readiness of Nexius?

Informed sources confirm that the DPI was tried by the security services, which concluded that it was ineffective

In connection with "Al-Akhbar", those involved in "Touch" indicated that the latter will not be obligated to operate the DPI product this year due to the austerity of operating expenses for 2020, contenting itself with noting that any binding will need the approval of the Council of Ministers. This statement contradicts what is reported in the information about the "list of projects" that the company intends to implement this year, while sources believe that the reason for the delay is "NEXIUS company waiting for the development of its product and its task of operating it." This statement is reinforced by the information that "Touch" did not stop when the company violated the deadline granted to it by the former Minister of Communications Muhammad Shuqair last October to test the product, which was limited to three weeks. While NEXIUS was scheduled to test the product early December, it has not yet tried it.

NET VEE or NEXIUS?

In a previous interview with Al-Akhbar, one of the NEXIUS founders, Samir Talib, confirmed that the company had submitted its offer (either to “Touch” or to “Alpha”) on behalf of the company Nexius. NEXIUS and that who will implement this product are about 200 Lebanese employees working for the Lebanese Wicom Company ». Why didn't NET VEE progress from the start? "Because it was under construction!" This is what Taleb said at the time, which means that Alfa decided to commit an under construction company to producing a product that it is not yet ready for!

On June 12th, the general manager of Nexius Mea sent a letter to Choucair stating that the company believes that it is “in the best interest of the customer to transfer the“ Alpha ”contract and the offer made to Touch directly to Net vee,“ a company established in March 2018 and registered in the UK".

Sources say that changing the company’s name “is nothing but a ploy to evade the suspicion of the relationship between Nexius and the American comscore company, which is convicted of stealing user data?

Which raises the question about the reasons that lead the departments of "Touch" and "Alpha" to be lenient enough to wait for the establishment of a company to supply it with an incomplete product under consensual contracts, away from the option of inviting ready offers through transparent and clear bids.

Why is it a product according to a number of experts, then it is a product

DPI is intended to disclose user data and movement. It allows "monitoring" of what they call "smartphone user behavior", by registering all the applications and sites visited by the phone carrier and using them, as well as knowing who it communicates with through non encrypted applications.

Therefore, the existence of this product has become "intuitive" in the infrastructure of telecommunications companies, in light of the relentless efforts made by companies to know the whims and needs of users. The product automatically analyzes the information to explore the needs of the phone user. Additionally, the DPI is important for cyber security, as it helps security services obtain real-time information about the phone user. DPI important for telecom companies and security services?

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