Phone cracking tech is being used to target journalists in Botswana

New Report Show Title Article Illustration Phone Cracking Tech Used to Target Journalists in Botswana

Pictures: David Ramos (Getty Images)

The willingness of digital forensic firms to sell a paid law enforcement agency in most cases, regardless of the country’s human rights record, caused little controversy. Critics say these tools allow bad governments to have broad, offensive power and could be used illegally to target workers or journalists during investigations.

What seems to be the main example of this problem, A new report Published this week The Committee to Protect Journalists shows how US and Israeli digital forensic agencies have recently used the Botswana government to investigate a number of journalists … Well, that part isn’t exactly clear.

The report Details The ordeal of its reporter and co-founder Ortile Decolang Botswana People’s Daily News, Who was arrested last year and tortured after being accused of spreading “fake news” about the country’s president and Covid-19. Police officials, claiming that Dicologang was responsible for creating several inflammatory Facebook posts, Bring complaints with him “Release of intentional statements intended to deceive individuals about COVID-19 infection.” They then allegedly took him to the local station, stripped him naked and left a black bag on his head before questioning his source.

In an interview with CPG, the journalist denied that the social media posts were actually questionable writing And said that Authorities tried to use the incident to retrieve information from him about his reporting practices.

Added to the dystopian tenor of this whole episode is how the police used data extraction tools to quickly gain a spectrum of insights into what this reporter’s contacts were. Authorities allege that the Israeli company Selbright used the Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED) product and the US-based company AccessData forensic toolkit, which helped police retrieve thousands of pieces of data from the reporter’s phone. CPJ reports:

Dicologang told CPJ he declined to reveal his source – but gave the password to his phone. Police then “successfully lifted” and “thoroughly analyzed” thousands of messages, contacts, images, audio files and videos of journalists, as well as social media accounts and applications, according to an affidavit they submitted to the court to support the ongoing prosecution.

Jonathan Rosen, one of the researchers investigating the episode, said the presence of digital forensic technology in government investigations is a growing problem in many cases. ” [to the contents] “Among the devices,” Rosen said on a phone call with Gizmodo.

“Authorities can transfer and access the contents of your phone, your research, the information you are collecting as part of your work – this idea has had a really cool effect. [on journalism]. Privacy is a really important press freedom, ”he said. “Wherever we have identified the acquisition of this technology by the authorities, journalists are apprehensive.”

Rosen said companies will review their sales practices and look at these issues in a more comprehensive manner.

“We have been in dialogue with these companies for some time, like other companies,” he said. “We consistently receive responses that are common to human rights considerations. Their terms of service make it clear that they agree to the human rights test … and we are not clear about what is involved in these processes. What kind of appropriate work are these companies doing before selling this technology to a security agency or government? ”

Recent research has also shown that some of these data extraction devices can be easily manipulated, displacing evidence of feasibility. Ongoing questions about what exactly is going on with Celebrite’s own Protection – as helpful Signals are directed by CEO Moxie MarlinspikeThis adds to the extra level of concern for the national event.

Rosen added that among the growing number of cases worldwide, the Botswana episode is one in which journalists have been jailed for spreading false news. In Dicologang’s case, the legal charges against him included violations of the law, including “creating offensive electronic communications”, “publishing alarming statements” and “disclosing with intent to defraud.” Rosen Dr. He added that around the world, governments have increasingly relied on similar arguments to follow journalists.

We reached out to both Celebrate and AccessData for comments. When will we update this story They come back to us.

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