Grant / January 2020

Illuminating and Defending Against Targeted Government Surveillance of Activists

This effort focuses on developing a deeper understanding of the nature, scope and prevalence of abusive state-level surveillance and its extra-judicial use as a potent form of social control, as seen through the lens of targeted surveillance of activists and political opponents. Drawing upon a network of targeted individuals and groups in the Middle East with whom we have established extensive ties, we will pursue (1) targeted-focused forensics (analyzing the nature of such attacks, the perpetrators, and their associated activity, identifying new attack modalities as they emerge); (2) global measurements (assessing the prevalence of surveillance techniques by employing broad scanning and DNS cache-inference techniques to profile the footprint of surveillance spyware), and (3) target-appropriate defenses specifically focused on the needs of at-risk activists and NGOs (including approaches for automatically vetting messages for social engineering attacks).