Zimbabwe Amongst Countries Buying Spyware Against Its Citizen

By Own Correspondent


Zimbabwe  has  been mentioned amongst top buyers  of  Cyberespionage,  a software that is  deployed  in  mobile networks telecommunication  system  by government to monitor and  track  targeted individuals.


According to  Circles,   a surveillance firm that reportedly exploits weaknesses in the global mobile phone system to snoop on calls, texts, and the location of phones around the globe stated  that Zimbabwe  was  amongst  its  customers.

Circles, whose products work without hacking the phone itself, says they sell only to nation-states. According to leaked documents, Circles customers can purchase a system that they connect to their local telecommunications companies’ infrastructure, or can use a separate system called the “Circles Cloud,” which interconnects with telecommunications companies around the world.

Zimbabwe  government  earlier  on produced  a documentary  where  they  published  exact GPS location of MDC  Alliance  activists and  possible chats,  a move they  could  have established by  using such a software.


From  the 252 IP addresses we detected in 50 ASNs, we identified 25 governments that are likely to be Circles customers. We also identified 17 specific government branches that appear to be Circles customers, based on WHOIS, passive DNS, and historical scanning data from Check Point firewall IPs or their neighbors.

As internet penetration and smartphone usage increases across Africa, digital spaces have become increasingly important in organizing opposition movements.


The use of Circles by governments in Africa is as a way of crushing resistance as digital spaces have become increasingly important in organizing opposition movements.


The public discussion around surveillance and tracking largely focuses on well known technical means, such as targeted hacking and network interception. However, other forms of surveillance are regularly and extensively used by governments and third parties to engage in cross-border surveillance and monitoring.


Abuse of the global telephone system for tracking and monitoring is believed to be widespread, however it is difficult to investigate. When a device is tracked or messages intercepted there are not necessarily any traces on the target’s device for researchers or investigators to find.

Meanwhile, cellular carriers have many technical difficulties identifying and blocking abuses of their infrastructure. This comes as internet penetration and smartphone usage increase across the continent.


In response, several governments have at times shut down the internet or blocked social media apps and some regimes have turned to digital surveillance technology for more subtle ways to crush resistance.


In a recent report titled Running in Circles, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab – which investigates digital espionage against civil society – details how 25 governments around the world are using tools developed by the Israeli telecoms company Circles.


Its technology is sold to nation-states only. It intercepts data from 3G networks, allowing the infiltrator to read messages, emails, and listen in on phone calls as they occur. Using only a telephone number, a Circles platform can also identify the location of a phone anywhere in the world within seconds without a warrant.



So far, three circles platforms were detected in Zimbabwe. The use of one dates back to 2013, while another was activated in March 2018.
The Zimbabwean government has long targeted its critics and opponents
Last year, investigative journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition politician Jacob Ngarivhume were detained ahead of anti-government protests. Circles technology may be facilitating this repression.

TechMag

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