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.
We are releasing a more comprehensive “checklist” consolidating our thoughts on how best to confront the lack of accountability in the commercial spyware trade.
In this report, we confirm the use of the services of Canadian company Netsweeper, Inc. to censor access to the Internet in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
This report describes privacy and security issues with Baidu Browser, a web browser for the Windows and Android platforms. Our research shows that the application transmits personal user data to Baidu servers without encryption and with easily decryptable encryption, and is vulnerable to arbitrary code execution during software updates via man-in-the-middle attacks. Much of the data leakage is the result of a shared Baidu software development kit, which affects hundreds of additional applications.
This report provides a detailed, mixed methods analysis of Information controls related to the Yemen armed conflict, with research commencing at the end of 2014 and continuing through October 20, 2015. The research confirms that Internet filtering products sold by the Canadian company Netsweeper have been installed on and are presently in operation in the state-owned and operated ISP YemenNet, the most utilized ISP in the country.
This post describes the results of Internet scanning we recently conducted to identify the users of FinFisher, a sophisticated and user-friendly spyware suite sold exclusively to governments. We devise a method for querying FinFisher’s “anonymizing proxies” to unmask the true location of the spyware’s master servers. Since the master servers are installed on the premises of FinFisher customers, tracing the servers allows us to identify which governments are likely using FinFisher. In some cases, we can trace the servers to specific entities inside a government by correlating our scan results with publicly available sources.
As the United Nations General Assembly begins its milestone 70th session, international digital security is high on the agenda. One starting point for discussion is likely to be the International Code of Conduct for Information Security (the “Code”). This analysis explores how the Code has developed over time, impetus behind the changes made, and the potential impact of the Code on international human rights law and its application. It is accompanied by an interactive comparison of the 2015 and 2011 versions of the Code.
This report describes the results of two independent security audits of Smart Sheriff, one by researchers who collaborated at the 2015 Citizen Lab Summer Institute (held at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto), and the other by the auditing firm Cure53. The combined audits identified twenty-six security vulnerabilities in recent versions of Smart Sheriff (versions 1.7.5 and under). These vulnerabilities could be leveraged by a malicious actor to take control of nearly all Smart Sheriff accounts and disrupt service operations.
This research note outlines what we know about the use of Hacking Team’s Remote Control System (RCS) by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS). The note synthesizes information found in publicly leaked materials, as well as our own research.