March 10, 2017
Azeri human rights activists, journalists and political dissidents have been the targets of a fraudulent and sustained ‘spear phishing’ campaign using emails and Facebook chat, apparently aimed at gaining access to their personal information and private communications, said Amnesty International in a new report launched today.
The investigation reveals that the attacks, which can compromise passwords and contacts, have been directed at various government critics for the past 13 months. Victims told Amnesty International they believed the Azerbaijani authorities are behind the attacks.
“Our research reveals that a targeted and coordinated cyber campaign is being waged against critical voices in Azerbaijan, many of whom are long-time victims of government repression,” said Claudio Guarnieri, Senior Technologist at Amnesty International.
“The malware used has been designed with the express intention of gathering as much private information as possible about a target. Given the profiles of those targeted, it is not hard to see why victims believe the authorities are responsible.”
One victim was the lawyer and human rights activist Rasul Jafarov, who was alerted to the attack when he received a phone call from a colleague in October 2016 warning him that he had been sent an email and attachment from an address very similar to his.
A former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Rasul Jafarov has previously spent more than a year and a half in prison on trumped-up, politically motivated charges stemming from his human rights work.
He told Amnesty International: “I believe that [the Azerbaijani authorities] are trying to closely watch everyone who is criticizing the government, who is implementing different activities, or projects or campaigns which the government doesn’t like.”