Sarah McKune

Tender Confirmed, Rights At Risk: Verifying Netsweeper in Bahrain

In this report, we confirm the use of the services of Canadian company Netsweeper, Inc. to censor access to the Internet in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Baidu’s and Don’ts: Privacy and Security Issues in Baidu Browser

This report describes privacy and security issues with Baidu Browser, a web browser for the Windows and Android platforms. Our research shows that the application transmits personal user data to Baidu servers without encryption and with easily decryptable encryption, and is vulnerable to arbitrary code execution during software updates via man-in-the-middle attacks. Much of the data leakage is the result of a shared Baidu software development kit, which affects hundreds of additional applications.

Information Controls during Military Operations: The case of Yemen during the 2015 political and armed conflict

This report provides a detailed, mixed methods analysis of Information controls related to the Yemen armed conflict, with research commencing at the end of 2014 and continuing through October 20, 2015. The research confirms that Internet filtering products sold by the Canadian company Netsweeper have been installed on and are presently in operation in the state-owned and operated ISP YemenNet, the most utilized ISP in the country.

Pay No Attention to the Server Behind the Proxy: Mapping FinFisher’s Continuing Proliferation

This post describes the results of Internet scanning we recently conducted to identify the users of FinFisher, a sophisticated and user-friendly spyware suite sold exclusively to governments. We devise a method for querying FinFisher’s “anonymizing proxies” to unmask the true location of the spyware’s master servers. Since the master servers are installed on the premises of FinFisher customers, tracing the servers allows us to identify which governments are likely using FinFisher. In some cases, we can trace the servers to specific entities inside a government by correlating our scan results with publicly available sources.

An Analysis of the International Code of Conduct for Information Security

As the United Nations General Assembly begins its milestone 70th session, international digital security is high on the agenda. One starting point for discussion is likely to be the International Code of Conduct for Information Security (the “Code”). This analysis explores how the Code has developed over time, impetus behind the changes made, and the potential impact of the Code on international human rights law and its application. It is accompanied by an interactive comparison of the 2015 and 2011 versions of the Code.

Are the Kids Alright? Digital Risks to Minors from South Korea’s Smart Sheriff Application

This report describes the results of two independent security audits of Smart Sheriff, one by researchers who collaborated at the 2015 Citizen Lab Summer Institute (held at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto), and the other by the auditing firm Cure53. The combined audits identified twenty-six security vulnerabilities in recent versions of Smart Sheriff (versions 1.7.5 and under). These vulnerabilities could be leveraged by a malicious actor to take control of nearly all Smart Sheriff accounts and disrupt service operations.

What we know about the South Korea NIS’s use of Hacking Team’s RCS

This research note outlines what we know about the use of Hacking Team’s Remote Control System (RCS) by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS). The note synthesizes information found in publicly leaked materials, as well as our own research.

Encryption and anonymity in digital communications: new report by UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression David Kaye

The report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (“SR on FOE”), David Kaye, regarding the use of encryption and anonymity in digital communications, is now available. The SR on FOE submitted this report to the UN Human Rights Council for consideration during its upcoming 29th session; the report is scheduled for discussion on June 17.

Summary: Privacy and Security Issues with UC Browser

Our report reveals that UC Browser poorly secures data in its English and Chinese language versions for Android.

A Chatty Squirrel: Privacy and Security Issues with UC Browser

UC Browser is the most popular mobile web browser in China and India, boasting over 500 million users. This report provides a detailed analysis of how UC Browser manages and transmits user data, particularly private data, during its operation. Our research was prompted by revelations in a document leaked by Edward Snowden on which the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was preparing a story.