Citizen Lab Senior Research Fellows John Scott-Railton and Bill Marczak will be speaking on “Million Dollar Dissidents and the Rest of Us: Uncovering Nation-State Mobile Espionage in the Wild” at the Schedule 33 Chaos Communications Congress (CCC) in Hamburg, Germany, held from December 27-30. John-Scott Railton and Bill Marczak will be speaking on December 29 in Saal 1 from 11:30am – 1:00pm.
The event built off the release of the Citizen Lab’s report on the targeting of UAE human rights activists Ahmed Mansoor’s iPhone, using software produced by the NSO group. Both Bill Marczak and John Scott-Railton were involved in the research and writing of the report.
An excerpt from the event description is as follows:
In August 2016, Apple issued updates to iOS and macOS that patched three zero-day vulnerabilities that were being exploited in the wild to remotely install persistent malcode on a target’s device if they tapped on a specially crafted link. We linked the vulnerabilities and malcode to US-owned, Israel-based NSO Group, a government-exclusive surveillance vendor described by one of its founders as “a complete ghost”.
We will outline the functionality of the exploit used against Mansoor, and the Pegasus surveillance malcode, and outline the collaborative research and responsible disclosure process to Apple that led to the out-of-band updates to iOS and macOS.
Using the Mansoor attack as a case study, we will provide a window into how researchers at Citizen Lab leverage and fingerprint these patterns to track nation-state level attacks against human rights defenders and journalists. Drawing on cases from the UAE and beyond, we will discuss how we work with targets and victims, conduct Internet scanning, and fingerprint C&C servers. We will conclude with a discussion of some trends that we have observed in commercial malcode sold to nation state actors.
Citizen Lab Senior Research Fellow Claudio Guarnieri also gave a talk at the 2016 CCC. He reflected on the role of hacking communities in larger societal and political currents. In particular, he discusses the ways in which they have worked in researching and preventing the targeting of journalists and dissidents electronically.