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Amnesty Helps Launch Free Anti-spyware Tool for Activists

by Liat Clark

A security researcher has created a free, downloadable tool that journalists and activists can use to scan their computers and mobile devices for surveillance malware.

Photography credits – Darren Perry 2013. Title: ‘Catch Me If You Can’ //  Made with: Spray cans, Stencils  //  Parkland Walk, London, 2013
Photography credits – Darren Perry 2013.
Title: ‘Catch Me If You Can’ // Made with: Spray cans, Stencils // Parkland Walk, London, 2013

Detekt was created by Claudio Guarnieri, an analyst who works at nonprofits The Honeynet Project and of The Shadowserver Foundation building open source tools to help make the internet a safer place. Knowing that human rights campaigners and journalists all over the globe are increasingly at risk of having their activities spied upon and hampered by intrusive governments, Amnesty International, Digitale Gesellschaft, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Privacy International have joined with Guarnieri to get this piece of software out to their networks. And it couldn’t come soon enough.

“In the last few years it’s something we’re encountering more and more — individuals we work with, human rights activists, lawyers, journalists, are finding these forms of harassment and repression from governments,” Tanya O’Carroll, from Amnesty International’s Technology and Human Rights team, tells WIRED.co.uk. “They are no longer only threatened with physical tools, but digital ones.”

Marek Marczynski, Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International, adds: “Governments are increasingly using dangerous and sophisticated technology that allows them to read activists and journalists’ private emails and remotely turn on their computer’s camera or microphone to secretly record their activities. They use the technology in a cowardly attempt to prevent abuses from being exposed.”

“Detekt is a simple tool that will alert activists to such intrusions so they can take action. It represents a strike back against governments who are using information obtained through surveillance to arbitrarily detain, illegally arrest and even torture human rights defenders and journalists.”

WIRED.co.uk has written extensively about the spyware battlefield the likes of Amnesty, and those it fights for, are facing. It was in 2011 that Privacy International demanded the Prime Minister David Cameron answer questions relating to the export of British surveillance technologies to repressive regimes, including those in Egypt and Syria during uprisings in both nations. Part of that testimony related specifically to FinFisher, surveillance software found to be used by Hosni Mubarak’s secret police in Egypt. It can be used to listen in on Skype conversations, extract files from hard drives, switch on the microphone to record, or the camera to take photos/videos.

Earlier this year Privacy International’s argument was compounded by a claim it took to the National Crime Agency, which delivered evidence of an Ethiopian political refugee living in the UK being illegally targeted from overseas using the British-made spy software.

Amnesty International and colleagues, recognising that researchers are leading the way in combatting this problem, reached out to Guarnieri to help bring the tools that fight oppression and censorship to its vast global network of human rights activists.

The original cartoon:

Title: “Surveillance”  //  Made with: Graphics Tab, Photoshop CS5  //  2012
Title: “Surveillance” // Made with: Graphics Tab, Photoshop CS5 // 2012


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