John Scott-Railton

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John Scott-Railton is a Senior Researcher at The 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 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

A Chatty Squirrel: Privacy and Security Issues with UC Browser

UC Browser is the most popular mobile web browser in China and India, boasting over 500 million users. This report provides a detailed analysis of how UC Browser manages and transmits user data, particularly private data, during its operation. Our research was prompted by revelations in a document leaked by Edward Snowden on which the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was preparing a story.

啰嗦的松鼠:UC浏览器的隐私与安全问题

UC浏览器是一种移动浏览器,它目前拥有超过5亿的注册用户,是中国和印度最受欢迎的手机浏览器。在《啰嗦的松鼠:UC浏览器的隐私与安全问题》这一报告中,公民实验室(Citizen Lab)发现中文和英文安卓版UC浏览器中存在多个隐私及安全漏洞, 并讨论了它们的重要性。

China’s Great Cannon

This post describes our analysis of China’s “Great Cannon,” our term for an attack tool that we identify as separate from, but co-located with, the Great Firewall of China. The first known usage of the Great Cannon is in the recent large-scale novel DDoS attack on both GitHub and servers used by GreatFire.org.

Tibetan Uprising Day Malware Attacks

Hundreds of members of the Tibetan community are being targeted by email-based malware attacks that leverage the March 10 Tibetan Uprising anniversary as a theme. This report analyzes two March 10 related attacks. One using a new malware family we call MsAttacker , and another using the ShadowNet malware family and command and control infrastructure related to previous campaigns that targeted the Tibetan community.

Behind the Syrian Conflict’s Digital Frontlines

Citizen Lab Research Fellow John Scott-Railton is one of the authors of a report entitled “Behind the Syrian Conflict’s Digital Frontlines,” released today by FireEye, that documents a hacking operation that successfully breached the Syrian opposition.

Malware Attack Targeting Syrian ISIS Critics

This report describes a malware attack on a Syrian citizen media group critical of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Though we are unable to conclusively attribute the attack to ISIS or its supporters, a link to ISIS is plausible. The malware used in the attack differs substantially from campaigns linked to the Syrian regime, and the attack is against a group that is an active target of ISIS forces. In the interest of highlighting a developing threat, this post analyzes the attack and provides a list of Indicators of Compromise.

Civil Society Organizations Face Onslaught of Persistent Computer Espionage Attacks

A new report, entitled “Communities @ Risk: Targeted Digital Threats Against Civil Society,” involved 10 civil society groups that enrolled as study subjects over a period of four years. The study sought to obtain greater visibility into an often overlooked digital risk environment affecting–whether they know it or not–many of society’s most essential institutions.

Police Story: Hacking Team’s Government Surveillance Malware

We analyze a newly discovered Android implant that we attribute to Hacking Team and highlight the political subtext of the bait content and attack context. In addition, we expose the functionality and architecture of Hacking Team’s Remote Control system and operator tradecraft in never-before published detail.

Maliciously Repackaged Psiphon Found

In the past 24 hours The Citizen Lab has identified a maliciously repackaged copy of the popular circumvention software Psiphon 3. This post describes the malware and outlines steps to be taken.