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An investigation by The Citizen Lab found evidence that Egyptian authorities are exploiting cryptocurrencies on computers and laptops


With the help of Internet analysis, researchers found deep probing boxes on package inspection on Egypt Telecom connections. Unencrypted traffic (which uses http, not https) has been redirected to the cryptocurrency browser’s browser scripts. The researchers suggest that this was done in order to extract incomes from unsuspecting Internet users.

The report also identifies the same malicious system used in Turkey to inject spyware into citizens’ devices. Egypt and Turkey have been increasingly authoritarian in recent years, violating multiple human rights obligations. Reporters Without Borders ranked Egypt 161st out of 180 in its world press freedom ranking in 2017 and 800 people have been sentenced to death since 2013. Journalists, human rights defenders and protesters have been the subject of arrests, disappearances and torture.

After a thorough investigation, the team was able to track network injections from Egypt and Turkey to the Sandvine PacketLogic devices – an American company that sold the Turkish system as part of 39, a $ 6,000,000 contract. At the moment the case has caused an important member of the company to resign in protest.

Attitudes towards cryptocurrency are shared in highly religious Egypt. Earlier this year, Egypt’s first religious leader called for a blockchain ban, saying Bitcoin was illegal under Sharia law.

While some Egyptian authorities are against technology, the attackers are probably making large sums of money. A report from Talos earlier this month, a leading cyber security intelligence firm, estimates that malicious mining could be clearing attackers for more than $ 100 million a year. The report estimated that each infected device can generate about 28 cents a day. With 2000 devices that rise to $ 568 a day and $ 200,000 a year. However, it is likely that the discovered national system could have many more infected devices – which would lead to much higher profits.

This type of attack has increased tremendously in recent years, with malware research labs alleging that more than 1.5 million devices have been affected. Website owners have deployed technology as an alternative to advertising hosting. However, the main use was made by hackers who drag the system on the Internet users without their knowledge.

The news of the use of the software by Egypt and Turkey reminds us not only of the unstable situation of human rights in these countries, but also the espionage sanctioned by the state on a global scale. As we move forward in 2018, the Internet is becoming less and less a tool for connecting citizens, and more a weapon for spying on them.

Image from Shutterstock.

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