Tag Archives: commercialization of digital spying

7iber interviews Citizen Lab staff on spyware in the Middle East

Cyber Stewards Network Partner 7iber met with Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert, as well as Senior Research Fellows John-Scott Railton and Bill Marczak to discuss the Lab’s work in exposing spy systems in various countries, and in particular, the Middle East. In the interview, they discussed the presence of FinFisher and BlueCoat in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and other Gulf countries.

In the interview, Bill noted that there is an increasing trend of countries wanting to construct their own spyware platforms instead of purchasing them from third parties. He gave the example of Stealth Falcon, a recently identified as being produced by a cybersecurity company from the UAE, which has been used to target dissidents and journalists. Citizen Lab recently released a report titled “Million Dollar Dissident,” detailing the use of Stealth Falcon against Ahmed Mansoor, an internationally recognized human rights defender.

Bill Marczak explained that while spy software can have legitimate functions in combating terrorism and foiling crimes, companies marketing these products are often wiling to sell to any buyer, leading to it being in the hands of individuals or agencies with little or no oversight. Ron Deibert said “I think the problem is that in most of these cases, we have seen no checks and balances, no judicial authority and no warrant, and so criminals are left unharmed but Human Rights’ activists like Hisham Almirat and Ahmed Mansoor are pursued and prosecuted. There is certainly abuse of this technology going on, and how you prevent that from happening is the question. We can’t outlaw the technology but we do need to prevent the abuse of that technology.”

Read the full interview.

 

Citizen Lab and Cyber Stewards Network at 2015 APrIGF workshops

The Citizen Lab and its network of cybersecurity researchers and advocates in the global South, the Cyber Stewards Network, will be participating in the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) on July 1-3, 2015, at the Macau University of Science & Technology, Macau. The conference aims to provide a platform for multi-stakeholder discussion on key Internet governance issues that are unique to the Asia Pacific region, and how solutions can be translated to the international level.

The workshop entitled “Surveillance trends, challenges and opportunities in the Asia Pacific” will explore trends in communications surveillance in the region, government responses to civil society criticisms of these practices, and the manner in which the expansion of these technologies can be managed with respect for the rule of law and human rights. The workshop will draw extensively on Citizen Lab research into information controls, such as commercial spyware software FinFisher, whose command and controls servers have been located in 36 countries, including Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, and Vietnam. Findings from research on Italy-based Hacking Team and Canadian firm Netsweeper, whose products are also sold to law enforcement agencies worldwide, will also inform the discussion.

Communications Officer and Researcher Irene Poetranto will be joined by Shahzad Ahmad, Country Director of Bytes for All Pakistan, Donny Budhi Utoyo, Director of ICT Watch, Pirongrong Ramasoota, Professor at Chulalongkorn University, and Ritu Srivastava, Programme Officer at the Digital Empowerment Foundation.

In a separate roundtable workshop entitled “Online Threats and Chilling Effects to Journalism in the Asia Pacific,” Irene Poetranto will join Andrew Lowenthal of EngageMedia, a non-profit organization focused on using citizen media initiatives to influence social reforms. The workshop will discuss digital security threats to journalists, such as interception and surveillance of their communications, along with methods to cope with these threats.

Further information on conference programming and schedules can be found on the 2015 APrIGF website.