Ethiopia is spying on people around the world who criticise its government

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Authorities in Ethiopia are attempting to spy on people who criticise the country’s government by targeting them with malware attacks, according to a new report by Citizen Lab.

According to the report, Ethiopia is targeting critics in the US, UK and other countries with spyware campaigns designed to track their online actions. At least 20 countries around the world have been targeted, according to the report – including Ethiopia itself – but the actual number could be higher.

Ethiopia’s spyware campaigns

The Citizen Lab report reveals an email spyware campaign sent to critics of Ethiopia’s government. Recipients receive an email asking them to click a link which takes them to a page asking them to download a malicious file – in this case, a Flash update in order to watch a video.

Any user who clicks the download link their computer is infected with the spyware and Ethiopian authorities are then able to track their online actions. The recipients of these emails are specifically targeted by authorities and receive multiple emails prompting them to download a malicious file.

Some of the emails also appear to be sent from legitimate sources, meaning official email accounts may have been compromised in the operation.

Campaigns getting more sophisticated

While the spyware campaigns targeting international critics are relatively crude, they are becoming more sophisticated. Ethiopia has a history of using spyware technology to target journalists and bloggers but the extent of its operation appear to be much larger than previously expected.

In the latest round of attacks, targets received emails tailored to their personal interests and the software they already have installed on their computer. Again, the emails prompt users to install update software updates and Citizen Lab detected infected computers in 20 countries around the world.

Featured image: Citizen Lab

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.