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14 May 2019

Hans Thoolen

Cyber attacks on activists & advice on how to avoid them

"Beyond WhatsApp and NSO – how human rights defenders are targeted by cyberattacks", 14 May 2019

Friedhelm Weinberg [of] HURIDOCS, published “3 ways activists are being targeted by cyberattacks’ on the website of World Economic Forum. A timely piece in view of the current turmoil surrounding the discovery of spyware crafted by a sophisticated hackers-for-hire, who took advantage of a flaw in WhatsApp.  The Financial Times identified the actor as Israel’s NSO Group, and WhatsApp...describ[ed] hackers as “a private company that has been known to work with governments to deliver spyware.” .As late as Sunday, as WhatsApp engineers raced to close the loophole, a UK-based human rights lawyer’s phone was targeted using the same method... Asked about the WhatsApp attacks, NSO said it was investigating the issue. “Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies,” the company said. “NSO would not, or could not, use its technology in its own right to target any person or organisation, including this individual [the UK lawyer].” ...  Amnesty International is pushing for Israel’s defence ministry to withdraw an export license for NSO Group... 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... Recently, these companies also started investigating who is behind these attacks...