Ethiopia’s internet and media freedom isn’t exactly up to scratch, even when compared to other East African nations. So it shouldn’t really come as a surprise to find out that a good number of Ethiopian journalist based in Washington, D.C were targeted in hacking efforts.
Media freedom, and by a large extent internet freedom, is incredibly restrictive in the country. Any VoIP service whose traffic can be encrypted – like Skype – is banned, and nine bloggers are still in jail on terrorism charges for blogging about the government.
According to a report by CitizenLab, journalists from Ethiopian Satellite Television Service (ESAT) were the targets of hack attempts in November and December last year. The hackers wanted to infect the journalists’ computers with Hacking Team’s RCS spyware.
The spyware is from an Italian company, and has been used by a number of governments to monitor and track internet users and to decipher their encrypted files and emails.
“Our research suggests the involvement of a governmental attacker that may be the Ethiopian Information Network Security Agency (INSA). Notably, the attacker appears to be the same entity as that involved in a December 2013 attack — also incorporating RCS — against ESAT journalists based in Belgium and the US,” CitizenLab wrote.
The website has a very detailed account of how the spyware tried to make its way into the journalists’ computers, and if you would like to read it, just click here.
“Dissidents and others fleeing repressive regimes have long found a degree of protection by seeking refugee status in the West. Throughout the 20th century refugees from political persecution have established thriving diaspora communities where they have been able to continue their activity without fear of physical persecution.
For at least as long, the security services from the countries they left have attempted to monitor and sometimes interfere with their activities,” CitizenLab concluded.
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