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Systematized Hacking Campaign Breaking into Egypt’s Civil Society

Systematized Hacking Campaign Breaking into Egypt’s Civil Society

Human rights organizations and activists in Egypt have been under the attack of a hacking campaign since November, a Thursday report revealed.

The hacking campaign, carried out by a group dubbed Nile Phish, targeted the institutional and personal accounts of employees at eight organizations, including the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Al-Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture and Violence, Nazra for Feminist Studies, and the Egyptian Commission for Personal Rights.

The report was a result of a collaborative project between EIPR and Citizen Lab, a digital rights research group at Toronto University. It describes 92 hacking attempts since the campaign began.

Almost all of the targets identified are also implicated in Case 173, a “sprawling” legal case brought by the Egyptian government against NGOs, stated Citizen Lab. The case is known as the foreign funding case, and is regarded as an “unprecedented crackdown” on Egypt’s civil society.

“The Egyptian security agencies are obviously behind the attack,” Ziad Abdel Tawab, deputy director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, told Motherboard.

The hackers have been impersonating Google, FedEx, and other companies to acquire personal information of the target, EIPR said.

“Nile Phish’s sponsor clearly has a strong interest in the activities of Egyptian NGOs, specifically those charged by the Egyptian government in Case 173…  For example, we observed phishing against the colleagues of prominent Egyptian lawyer Azza Soliman, within hours of her arrest in December 2016. The phishing claimed to be a copy of her arrest warrant,” Citizen Lab explained.

“We are not in a position in this report to conclusively attribute Nile Phish to a particular sponsor. However, the scale of the campaign and its persistence, within the context of other legal pressures and harassment, compound the extremely difficult situation faced by NGOs in Egypt,” stated the report.

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@AyaNaderM

Aya Nader is an independent journalist based in Egypt, published in Open Democracy, Daily News Egypt, The National, and Al-Monitor, among others. She is an MA candidate in International Relations at the American University in Cairo.

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