John Scott-Railton

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John Scott-Railton is a Senior Researcher at Citizen Lab. His work focuses on technological threats civil society, including targeted malware operations, cyber militias, and online disinformation. His greatest hits include a collaboration with colleague Bill Marczak that uncovered the the systematic use of Pegasus spyware to target civil society in several countries, including Mexico and the UAE. Pegasus is developed by the Israeli cyber-warfare company NSO Group and sold exclusively to governments. That investigation also uncovered the first iPhone zero-day and remote jailbreak seen in the wild. Other investigations with Citizen Lab colleagues include the first report of ISIS-led malware operations, China's "Great Cannon," the Government of China's nation-scale DDoS attack, and the 'tainted leaks' disinformation campaigns strongly linked to the Russian Government. These investigations, and others, have served as the basis for criminal investigations and lawsuits. John has also investigated the successful manipulation of news aggregators such as Google News, and privacy and security issues with fitness trackers. Recently, John was a fellow at Google Ideas and Jigsaw at Alphabet. John has undergraduate degrees from the University of Chicago and a Masters from the University of Michigan. He is completing a PhD at UCLA. Previously he founded The Voices Projects, collaborative information feeds that bypassed internet shutdowns in Libya and Egypt. John's work has been covered by Time Magazine, BBC, CNN, The Washington Post, and the New York Times. He can be reached at jsr [at] citizenlab.ca

Articles

Nile Phish: Large-Scale Phishing Campaign Targeting Egyptian Civil Society

This report discusses the targeting of Egyptian NGOs by Nile Phish, a large-scale phishing campaign. Almost all of the targets we identified are also implicated in Case 173, a sprawling legal case brought by the Egyptian government against NGOs, which has been referred to as an “unprecedented crackdown” on Egypt’s civil society. Nile Phish operators demonstrate an intimate knowledge of Egyptian NGOs, and are able to roll out phishing attacks within hours of government actions, such as arrests.

It’s Parliamentary: KeyBoy and the targeting of the Tibetan Community

In this report we track a malware operation targeting members of the Tibetan Parliament that used known and patched exploits to deliver a custom backdoor known as KeyBoy. We analyze multiple versions of KeyBoy revealing a development cycle focused on avoiding basic antivirus detection.

Security for the High-Risk User

Citizen Lab Senior Research Fellow John Scott-Railton has published an updated version of his “Security for the High-Risk user” paper, first published in the IEEE Security & Privacy in spring 2016. The updates were made based on new evidence of attacks against two-factor and account recovery SMSes, underlining the need for innovation in two-factor authentication.

Group5: Syria and the Iranian Connection

This report describes a malware operation against the Syrian Opposition. We name the operator Group5, and suspect they have not been previously-reported. Group5 used “just enough” technical sophistication, combined with social engineering, to target computers and mobile phones with malware.