Research News

Citizen Lab's latest research publications.

Pay No Attention to the Server Behind the Proxy: Mapping FinFisher’s Continuing Proliferation

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.

An Analysis of the International Code of Conduct for Information Security

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.

Researchers Find Major Security and Privacy Issues in Smart Sheriff Parental Monitoring Application

The Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto is releasing a new report, “Are the Kids Alright? Digital Risks to Minors from South Korea’s Smart Sheriff Application.” The report details results of two independent audits of the privacy and security of Smart Sheriff, a parental monitoring application that has been promoted by the South Korean government.

시티즌랩 연구진, 한국의 청소년 유해정보 차단 앱에서 중요한 보안 및 프라이버시 문제점 발견

오늘 토론토 대학교 뭉크스쿨 글로벌상황연구소 산하 시티즌랩 (Munk School of Global Affairs, Citizen Lab)에서는 새로운 보고서 “우리의 아이들은 안전한가? 청소년들을 디지털 위험에 노출시키는 한국의 스마트보안관 앱(Are the Kids Alright? Digital Risks to Minors from South Korea’s Smart Sheriff Application)”을 발표한다. 동 보고서는 한국 정부가 권장하는 유해정보 차단 소프트웨어인 “스마트보안관”의 프라이버시 보호 정도 및 보안성에 대한 독립적인 두 건의 감사 결과를 상세하게 서술하고 있다.

Are the Kids Alright?: Digital Risks to Minors from South Korea’s Smart Sheriff Application

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.

تماس از لندن: فیشینگ رمز عبور دو مرحله‌ای از ایران

این گزارش به کمپین رو به رشد حملات فیشینگ علیه کاربران در گستره ایران و حداقل یک حمله به یک فعال غربی می‌پردازد. این حمله‌ها تلاش دارند تا امنیت مضاعفی که از طریق رمز عبور دو مرحله‌ای در گوگل فراهم شده است را دور بزنند و به شکل گسترده‌ای مبتنی بر تماس‌های تلفنی و تلاش برای ورود در زمان حقیقی از سوی مهاجم است. جالب اینجاست که این حمله‌ها عموما با یک تماس تلفنی از کشور انگلستان شروع می‌شده و هکرها به یکی از دو زبان فارسی و یا انگلیسی ارتباط برقرار می‌کرده‌اند.

Canada’s Quiet History Of Weakening Communications Encryption

This article, written by Postdoctoral Fellow Christopher Parsons and CIPPIC Staff lawyer Tamir Israel, analyzes how successive federal governments of Canada have actively sought to weaken the communications encryption available to Canadians. The article covers regulations imposed on mobile telecommunications providers, state authorities’ abilities to compel decryption keys from telecommunications providers writ large, and Canada’s signals intelligence agency’s deliberate propagation of flawed encryption protocols.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn: Censorship and Surveillance on Social Video Platforms in China

In this paper presented at USENIX FOCI 2015 we use reverse engineering to provide a view into how keyword censorship operates on four popular social video platforms in China: YY, 9158, Sina Show, and GuaGua. We also find keyword surveillance capabilities on YY. Our findings show inconsistencies in the implementation of censorship and the keyword lists used to trigger censorship events between the platforms we analyzed. We reveal a range of targeted content including criticism of the government and collective action. These results provide evidence that there is no monolithic set of rules that govern how information controls are implemented in China.