Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

Beyond WhatsApp and NSO – how human rights defenders are targeted by cyberattacks

May 14, 2019

Several reports have shown Israeli technology being used by Gulf states against their own citizens (AFP/File photo)

NSO Group has been under increased scrutiny after a series of reports about the ways in which its spyware programme has been used against prominent human rights activists. Last year, a report by CitizenLab, a group at the University of Toronto, showed that human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were targeted with the software.

In October, US whistleblower Edward Snowden said Pegasus had been used by the Saudi authorities to surveil journalist Jamal Khashoggi before his death. “They are the worst of the worst,” Snowden said of the firm. Amnesty International said in August that a staffer’s phone was infected with the Pegasus software via a WhatsApp message.

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Friedhelm Weinberg‘s piece of 1 May is almost prescient and contains good, broader advice:

When activists open their inboxes, they find more than the standard spam messages telling them they’ve finally won the lottery. Instead, they receive highly sophisticated emails that look like they are real, purport to be from friends and invite them to meetings that are actually happening. The catch is: at one point the emails will attempt to trick them.

1. Phishing for accounts, not compliments

In 2017, the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, documented what they called the “Nile Phish” campaign, a set of emails luring activists into giving access to their most sensitive accounts – email and file-sharing tools in the cloud. The Seoul-based Transitional Justice Working Group recently warned on its Facebook page about a very similar campaign. As attacks like these have mounted in recent years, civil society activists have come together to defend themselves, support each other and document what is happening. The Rarenet is a global group of individuals and organizations that provides emergency support for activists – but together it also works to educate civil society actors to dodge attacks before damage is done. The Internet Freedom Festival is a gathering dedicated to supporting people at risk online, bringing together more than 1,000 people from across the globe. The emails from campaigns like Nile Phish may be cunning and carefully crafted to target individual activists.. – they are not cutting-edge technology. Protection is stunningly simple: do nothing. Simply don’t click the link and enter information – as hard as it is when you are promised something in return.

Often digital security is about being calm and controlled as much as it is about being savvy in the digital sphere. And that is precisely what makes it difficult for passionate and stressed activists!

2. The million-dollar virus

Unfortunately, calm is not always enough. Activists have also been targeted with sophisticated spyware that is incredibly expensive to procure and difficult to spot. Ahmed Mansoor, a human-rights defender from the United Arab Emirates, received messages with malware (commonly known as computer viruses) that cost one million dollars on the grey market, where unethical hackers and spyware firms meet. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/08/29/apple-tackles-iphone-one-tap-spyware-flaws-after-mea-laureate-discovers-hacking-attempt/]

Rights defender Ahmed Mansoor in Dubai in 2011, a day after he was pardoned following a conviction for insulting UAE leaders. He is now in prison once more.

Rights defender Ahmed Mansoor in Dubai in 2011. Image: Reuters/Nikhil Monteiro

3. Shutting down real news with fake readers

Both phishing and malware are attacks directed against the messengers, but there are also attacks against the message itself. This is typically achieved by directing hordes of fake readers to the real news – that is, by sending so many requests through bot visitors to websites that the servers break down under the load. Commonly referred to as “denial of service” attacks, these bot armies have also earned their own response from civil society. Specialised packages from Virtual Road or Deflect sort fake visitors from real ones to make sure the message stays up.

 

A chart showing how distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have grown over time.

How distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have grown. Image: Kinsta.com; data from EasyDNS

Recently, these companies also started investigating who is behind these attacks– a notoriously difficult task, because it is so easy to hide traces online. Interestingly, whenever Virtual Road were so confident in their findings that they publicly named attackers, the attacks stopped. Immediately. Online, as offline, one of the most effective ways to ensure that attacks end is to name the offenders, whether they are cocky kids or governments seeking to stiffle dissent. But more important than shaming attackers is supporting civil society’s resilience and capacity to weather the storms. For this, digital leadership, trusted networks and creative collaborations between technologists and governments will pave the way to an internet where the vulnerable are protected and spaces for activism are thriving.

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Big Brother Awards try to identify risks for human rights defenders

February 24, 2019

Emil Kurbedinov, Front Line Laureate, detained over Facebook post

December 7, 2018

esponding to the news that Crimean lawyer Emil Kurbedinovwas detained by the de-facto authorities in Russian-occupied Crimea and is now facing charges for a Facebook post he made five years ago, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia said: “Following yesterday’s arrest of prominent human rights defender Lev Ponomarev in Moscow, the detention of Emil Kurbedinov is the second time in two days that a human rights defender has been thrown behind bars over a Facebook post….The similarities of these two cases are obvious, even if they are not directly related. Both men are prominent members of the human rights community and both have been deliberately targeted by Russian authorities for this very reason.  See also:

Background: Emil Kurbedinov, a human rights defender and lawyer for a number of Crimean Tatar activists prosecuted by the Russian authorities, was detained on 6 December by Russian Interior Ministry officers on his way from home to his office in the Crimean capital Simferopol. He faces charges under the Russian law forbidding “propaganda or public demonstration of Nazi or other extremist attributes or symbols”, on account of his 2013 Facebook post on a Hizb ut-Tahrir event in Simferopol published a year before Russia occupied the peninsula. A number of groups and organizations which legally exist in Ukraine, including Hizb ut-Tahrir, are banned in Russia. On 5 December, a court in Moscow sentenced 77-year-old human rights activist Lev Ponomarev to 25 days in administrative detention for a Facebook post.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/12/crimea-lawyer-detained-in-latest-campaign-of-harassment-of-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/warning-received-emil-kurbedinov

Glimmer of hope in Iran: Nasrin Sotoudeh’s ban to practice overruled

September 6, 2014

NASRIN_SOTOUDEH_PORTRAIT The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reports on 5 September that the Lawyers’ Court denied the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office request for the suspension of Sotoudeh’s license to practice, and stated in a ruling that, “In the opinion of the Lawyer’s Court, Ms. Sotoudeh’s temporary suspension was unwarranted and will be overruled”. According to this ruling Ms. Sotoudeh can continue her profession as a lawyer says her husband Reza Khandan on Facebook.

[Prominent lawyer and human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh – final nominee of the MEA in 2012 and winner of the Sakharov prize- was arrested on September 4, 2010. A lower court sentenced her to 11 years in prison, a 20-year ban on her legal practice, and a 20-year ban on foreign travel, on charges of “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the state,” and “membership in the Human Rights Defenders Center.” An appeals court reduced her sentence to six years in prison and a 10-year ban on her legal practice. After almost three years in prison, Nasrin Sotoudeh was released on September 18, 2013. Upon release, Nasrin Sotoudeh objected to the ruling by the Tehran Revolutionary Court to suspend her license to practice law, asserting the Court’s lack of jurisdiction over this matter. She subsequently renewed her license and announced that she would continue her legal practice. However, judges have refused to allow her to appear in court to represent her clients.]

via Ten-Year Ban on Nasrin Sotoudeh’s Legal Practice Overruled: Prominent Human Rights Lawyer Returns to Law : International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

for more posts on Sotoudeh: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/nasrin-sotoudeh/

 

Facebook bad for your health in Iran

May 29, 2014

Facebook

(Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA)

The Guardian reports that eight people have been jailed in Iran on charges including blasphemy and insulting the country’s supreme leader on Facebook. The opposition website Kaleme reported that two of the eight, identified as Roya Saberinejad Nobakht, 47, from Stockport (Iranian/UK national), and Amir Golestani, each received 20 years in prison and the remaining six – Masoud Ghasemkhani, Fariborz Kardarfar, Seyed Masoud Seyed Talebi, Amin Akramipour, Mehdi Reyshahri and Naghmeh Shahisavandi Shirazi – between seven and 19 years. They were variously found guilty of blasphemy, propaganda against the ruling system, spreading lies and insulting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

[The relevant backdrop is that there is a growing row between President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, which favours internet freedom, and hardliners wary of relaxing online censorship. Last week, Iran’s national TV paraded six young Iranians arrested for performing a version of Pharrell William’s hit song Happy and posting a video of it on the internet. The arrests caused global outrage and prompted Rouhani to react in their support. The performers were soon released, but the video’s director, Sassan Soleimani, remains in jail. The arrests highlighted the challenges Rouhani faces in delivering his promise of allowing people greater access to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, which remain blocked in Iran….In recent weeks Rouhani has stepped up his rhetoric in support of internet freedom. “The era of the one-sided pulpit is over,” he said recently at a conference in Tehran, endorsing social networks and asking his communications minister to improve bandwidth in the country. He intervened when the authorities blocked access to the mobile messaging service WhatsApp, ordering the ban to be lifted. Iran’s judiciary, which is a political institution independent of the government, has since moved to challenge Rouhani’s intervention and orderered WhatsApp to be banned. Until two years ago, Iran’s ministry of information and communications technology was in charge of policing the country’s online community, but in 2012 Khamenei ordered officials to set up the supreme council of virtual space, a body that is closer to the supreme leader than to the government. This means Rouhani is not the sole decision-maker in the future of Iranian web. With help from Iran’s cyberpolice, the judiciary and the Revolutionary Guards have identified and arrested Iranians because of web-related issues, including several employees of the Iranian gadget news website Narenji, who have been in jail since December.]

via Briton among eight jailed in Iran for web insults | World news | The Guardian.

Human rights defender Ou Virak: a lonely voice in Cambodia against all discrimination

December 20, 2013

Human rights activist Ou Virak talks to the media outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last year.

(Human rights activist Ou Virak talks to the media outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last year. Vireak Mai)
A vicious backlash on social media (including death threats) has started against human rights activist Ou Virak in reaction to his call for opposition leader Sam Rainsy to stop inciting discrimination against the Vietnamese. Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, has been attacked on his Facebook page in comments ranging from disappointment to outright vulgar abuse. In a statement released on Wednesday, Virak clarified that Rainsy singled out the Vietnamese in speeches, inciting discrimination against them. Virak said the virulent reaction against him reaffirmed his concerns about using anti-Vietnamese sentiment as a campaign platform in the first place. David Boyle in the Phom Penh Post reports on 19 December 2013 more on how thin and important the line is between opposition and human rights defenders.

Read the rest of this entry »

Azerbaijan sees crackdown on HRDs and civil society as a whole

September 3, 2013

A recent 100-page report by Human Rights Watch, “Tightening the Screws: Azerbaijan’s Crackdown on Civil Society and Dissent,” documents the dramatic deterioration of the government’s record on freedom of expression, assembly, and association in the past 18 months. The authorities have arrested dozens of political activists on bogus charges, imprisoned critical journalists, broken up peaceful public demonstrations, and adopted legislation imposing new restrictions on fundamental freedoms.HRW_logo Read the rest of this entry »

Surveillance of indigenous human rights defender Cindy Blackstock in Canada

June 1, 2013

AI Canada informs that a report released on May 28 2013 in Canada by the federal Privacy Commissioner highlights a troubling pattern of invasive and unwarranted government surveillance of Canadian human rights defender Cindy Amnesty-InternationaBlackstock. Dr. Blackstock is the Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, a prominent non-governmental organization promoting equitable access to education, health care and other services for First Nations children. Government documents obtained by Dr. Blackstock show that two federal departments monitored her personal Facebook page, tracked people who posted to her page, and sent staff to take notes on her public presentations, all in an attempt to find information that might help the government fight a discrimination complaint that Dr. Blackstock’s organization is pursuing before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The Privacy Commissioner concluded that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Department of Justice went too far in their online monitoring of Dr. Blackstock. Read the rest of this entry »

Georgian LGBTI NGO Identoba files complaints about harassment and threats

May 31, 2013

A peaceful demonstration in Tbilisi, Georgia, on 17 May 2013, to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia was attacked by thousands of counter-protesters and human rights defenders were injured as you will have seen from the widely disseminated television images. The LGBTI rights rally had been scheduled to begin at 1pm on 17 May 2013, outside the former Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue. However, an hour earlier, counter-protesters Read the rest of this entry »

Facebook Joins the Global Network Initiative for Human Rights

May 23, 2013

On 22 May 2013 the Global Network Initiative (GNI) announced that Facebook had become the sixth company to join GNI. “Advancing human rights, including freedom of expression and the right to communicate freely, is core to our mission of making the world more open and connected,” said Elliot Schrage, Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Public Policy at Facebook.

GNI brings information technology companies together with NGOs, investors and academics. Founding companies are: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, as well as Evoca and Websense who joined the initiative in 2011. GNI’s principles and guidelines provide companies with a framework for responding to government requests in a manner that protects and advances freedom of expression and privacy. Companies that join GNI agree to independent assessments of their record in implementing these principles and guidelines.

By joining this important collaboration between companies, human rights organizations, investors, and academics, Facebook is fully embracing its responsibility to protecting the rights of its users and setting an example that other companies should follow,” said Leslie Harris, President and CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Contacts:  David Sullivan, GNI, dsullivan@globalnetworkinitiative.org
via Facebook Joins the Global Network Initiative | Global Network Initiative.