HRW on Ethiopia’s Out of Control Spyware

HRW on Ethiopia’s Out of Control Spyware

hrw on ethiopias out of control spyware HRW on Ethiopia’s Out of Control SpywareHuman Rights Watch calls out Ethiopia’s new spate of abusive surveillance directed at critics overseas and the need for spyware industry regulation. (Stock photo)


Ethiopian authorities have carried out a renewed campaign of malware attacks, abusing commercial spyware to monitor government critics abroad, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should immediately cease digital attacks on activists and independent voices, while spyware companies should be far more closely regulated.

On December 6, 2017, independent researchers at the Toronto-based research center Citizen Lab published a technical analysis showing the renewed government malware campaign aimed at Ethiopian activists and political opponents. These attacks follow a long, documented history of similar government efforts to monitor critics, inside and outside of Ethiopia.

“The Ethiopian government has doubled down on its efforts to spy on its critics, no matter where they are in the world,” said Cynthia Wong, senior internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These attacks threaten freedom of expression and the privacy and the digital security of the people targeted.”

Based on analysis of attacks starting in 2016, the Citizen Lab report identified several targets who received phishing emails, including several ethnic Oromo activists and scholars, one of Citizen Lab’s own research fellows, and Jawar Mohammed, an Oromo activist and executive director of the US-based Oromia Media Network (OMN). During the period of the infections described in the report, there were widespread protests in Ethiopia, beginning with Oromo protests over development plans around the capital, Addis Ababa, which culminated in a 10-month state of emergency that was lifted in August 2017. Security forces responded to those largely peaceful protests with lethal force, killing over one thousand protesters and detaining tens of thousands more since November 2015.

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Ethiopian Dissidents Targeted with New Commercial Spyware (The Citizen Lab)

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