John Scott-Railton is a Senior Researcher at Citizen Lab. He investigates threats to a free and secure internet. He focuses on: -Abuses of government-exclusive spyware -Online disinformation operations -State-sponsored cyber militias He can be reached at jsr [at] citizenlab.ca
Ethiopian’s penchant for commercial spyware is notorious, as is its pattern of digital espionage against journalists, activists, and other entities—many of which are based overseas—that seek to promote government accountability and are therefore viewed as political threats. Yet the Ethiopian government and others like it have faced little pressure to cease this particular strain of digital targeting.
This report describes how Ethiopian dissidents in the US, UK, and other countries were targeted with emails containing sophisticated commercial spyware posing as Adobe Flash updates and PDF plugins. Targets include a US-based Ethiopian diaspora media outlet, a PhD student, a lawyer, and even a Citizen Lab researcher.