Research News

Citizen Lab’s latest research publications.

Harmonized Histories? A year of fragmented censorship across Chinese live streaming applications

In this report, we reverse engineer three popular live streaming platforms (YY, Sina Show, and 9158) and find keyword lists used to censor chat messages. Tracking changes to the keyword lists over the past year gives an inside look into how these applications implement censorship

Canada’s National Security Consultation: Digital Anonymity & Subscriber Identification Revisited… Yet Again

In this post, we critically examine the Government of Canada’s proposal to indiscriminately access subscriber identity information that is possessed by telecommunications service providers. We conclude by arguing that the government has failed to justify its case for such access to the information.

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.

IMSI Catcher Report Calls for Transparency, Proportionality, and Minimization Policies

This report, written by Research Associate Christopher Parsons and CIPPIC Staff lawyer Tamir Israel, investigates the surveillance capabilities of IMSI Catchers, efforts by states to prevent information relating to IMSI Catchers from entering the public record, and the legal and policy frameworks that govern the use of these devices. The report principally focuses on Canadian agencies but, to do so, draws comparative examples from other jurisdictions. The report concludes with a series of recommended transparency and control mechanisms that are designed to properly contain the use of the devices and temper their more intrusive features.

The Million Dollar Dissident: NSO Group’s iPhone Zero-Days used against a UAE Human Rights Defender

This report describes how a government targeted an internationally recognized human rights defender, Ahmed Mansoor, with the Trident, a chain of zero-day exploits designed to infect his iPhone with sophisticated commercial spyware.

A Tough Nut to Crack: A Further Look at Privacy and Security Issues in UC Browser

In this report we analyze Windows and Android versions of web browser UC Browser, and find they transmitted personally identifiable information with easily decryptable encryption and were vulnerable to arbitrary code execution during software updates

Group5: Syria and the Iranian Connection

This report describes a malware operation against the Syrian Opposition. We name the operator Group5, and suspect they have not been previously-reported. Group5 used “just enough” technical sophistication, combined with social engineering, to target computers and mobile phones with malware.

On Research in the Public Interest

The following is a statement from Citizen Lab Director, Ron Deibert, concerning a defamation suit recently filed, and then discontinued by Netsweeper against the University of Toronto and Ron Deibert.

Release: DIY Transparency Report Tool

The DIY Transparency Report tool helps smaller organizations produce holistic transparency reports. Such reports comprehensively explain to customers, citizens, and government agencies alike how an organization can, and does, receive and respond to government requests. It does so by guiding organizational members through the process of developing a holistic report, while empowering them to customize their reports to reflect their organizational profile. And, critically, the tool is entirely open source and operates where the organization decides, so sensitive information is never disclosed to another party until the organization makes that decision.

Keep Calm and (Don’t) Enable Macros: A New Threat Actor Targets UAE Dissidents

Media Coverage: New York Times, Foreign Policy, International Business Times, Chicago Tribune, VICE Motherboard, Taipei Times, Forbes, Techworm, Sputnik News, Network World, BoingBoing. Authors: Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton 1. Executive Summary This report describes a campaign of targeted spyware attacks carried out by a sophisticated operator, which we call Stealth Falcon.  The attacks have been conducted […]