Feeds

Ethiopian journos hit by Hacking Team spyware, say infosec bods

Yet gov-level spyware 'only sold to law enforcement', claims firm

3 Big data security analytics techniques

Ethiopian journalists in the US were targeted by malware sold exclusively to governments by the Hacking Team company, according to security researchers.

Staffers at Ethiopian Satellite Television Service (ESAT), an independent TV, radio, and online news outlet run by Ethiopian ex-pats, was targeted repeatedly by spyware in late December. The spyware was designed to steal files and passwords, and intercept Skype calls and instant messages.

In each case, the spyware appeared to be Remote Control System (RCS), sold exclusively to governments by Milan-based Hacking Team, according to a subsequent analysis of the malware by independent researchers working for Citizen Lab*.

Hacking Team states that they do not sell RCS to “repressive regimes” and that RCS is not sold through “independent agents”. However, Ethiopia has a poor record for upholding human rights and local journalists are frequently targeted for arrest and subsequent beatings or other forms of abuse, according to Human Rights Watch.

ESAT broadcasts are frequently critical of the Ethiopian government and the station has been subjected to jamming from within Ethiopia several times in the past few years.

Hacking Team sells “offensive technology” to governments around the world. The company makes it clear that its law enforcement trojans are sold only to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

Citizen Lab-affiliated infosec researchers have put together a compressive analysis of how Hacking Team spyware was used on three occasions against ESAT on 20 December.

We identified three instances where Ethiopian journalist group ESAT was targeted with spyware in the space of two hours by a single attacker. In each case the spyware appeared to be RCS (Remote Control System), programmed and sold exclusively to governments by Milan-based Hacking Team.

While Hacking Team and other “lawful intercept” spyware vendors purport to practice effective self-regulation, this case seems to be part of a broader pattern of government abuse of such spyware. “Lawful intercept” spyware has also apparently been abused to target Bahraini activists, Moroccan journalists, critics of the Turkish Government, and Emirati human rights activists.

The attack against ESAT raises wider questions about the trade in so-called “lawful intercept” spyware. Hacking Team is not alone in operating in this marketplace, with other suppliers including French spyware firm Amesys, which is claimed to have sold products to Libya under the Gaddafi regime; and UK/German spyware maker Gamma International, according to reports from press freedom group Reporters Without Borders last year.

We asked Hacking Team if it wanted to comment on the Citizen Lab report and will update this story as and when we hear anything back.

Bootnote

*Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, Canada that focuses on researching the relationship between technology, human rights, and global security.

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
Mounties always get their man: Heartbleed 'hacker', 19, CUFFED
Canadian teen accused of raiding tax computers using OpenSSL bug
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
Arts and crafts store Michaels says 3 million credit cards exposed in breach
Meanwhile, Target investigators prepare for long process in nabbing hackers
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.