You’d never believe anything bad could come out of a country that was smart enough to help the humankind evolve by inventing writing, The Pyramids, irrigation, clocks, and lots of other stuff, but it looks like the Egyptian government is secretly using their citizens’ PCs to mine cryptocurrency. An interesting idea, and certainly the number of citizens multiplied by the profit from mining is a large number, but the lack of consent, just like in Russian Duma, is what seems to be getting the society indignant and seeking justice.

The Story

The second thing you won’t believe is that the Americans found out about it first. The Citizens’ Lab, a watchdog organization that works out of Canada, has released a study into Egyptian secrets in which it is claimed: “Sandvine’s PacketLogic Devices Used to Deploy Government Spyware in Turkey and Redirect Egyptian Users to Affiliate Ads”.

“Through Internet scanning, we found deep packet inspection (DPI) middleboxes on Türk Telekom’s network. The middleboxes were being used to redirect hundreds of users in Turkey and Syria to nation-state spyware when those users attempted to download certain legitimate Windows applications.”

– What happened? – We hear you ask in horror. Can’t we trust the government anymore? And isn’t anyone safe? Sadly, these are legitimate questions. The question pretty much since the beginning of Bitcoins and the beginning of Internet was whether anything you put out onto the Internet is safe. The truth is that hacker attacks do happen.

While there are certain precautions you can take to reduce the risks of being hijacked to a minimum, people do find themselves in trouble time after time. For example, not so long ago A10 networks described to the CNBC that the prognosis for the upcoming year of 2018 was that there were going to be more hacker attacks on everything to do with Bitcoin:

“The frequency, size, and volume of cyber attacks will increase in 2018, according to A10 Network’s founder and CEO, Lee Chen.  He also states:
“I think the digital transformation is the underlying motivation for hackers … So expect the frequency, the size, the volume of hacks to continue to increase in 2018”.

CNBC also describes “other cyber attacks that made headlines throughout the year, including Equifax’s data breach that affected close to 146 million consumers and a hack on Uber that saw the personal data of 57 million users stolen. The Uber hack took place last year but was reported in 2017.”

As one example, The Guardian describes one of many incidents of the past year the likes of which we will probably see again soon:

“Nearly $64m in bitcoin has been stolen by hackers who broke into Slovenian-based bitcoin mining marketplace NiceHash.
The marketplace suspended operations on Thursday while it investigated the breach, saying it was working with law enforcement as “a matter of urgency” while urging users to change their passwords.
The hack was “a highly professional attack with sophisticated social engineering” that resulted in approximately 4,700 bitcoin being stolen, worth about $63.92m at current prices, said NiceHash head of marketing Andrej P Škraba.”

It is entirely a different matter, however, when you find that the government is using you, and not just to mine cryptocurrency, but to target human rights organizations:

“The apparent use of Sandvine devices to surreptitiously inject malicious and dubious redirects for users in Turkey, Syria, and Egypt raises significant human rights concerns.”

– point out Bill Marczak, Jakub Dalek, Sarah McKune, Adam Senft, John Scott-Railton, and Ron Deibert, the people behind the research.

The worst part of the story

The same kinds of devices were used to block the content that had to do with human rights activists, journalistic investigations, and anti-regime articles. The websites like Human Rights Watch were blocked (can you think of any reason these would be blocked legitimately?).

The government has been caught more than once listening in to the citizens’ conversations for the sake of national security and prevention of terrorist attacks and so on. Still, it seems that the government’s intent here is to get involved with the people’s choice-making.

The investigation into the governmental injection of malicious data into people’s internet activities with clearly harmful intent is fascinating, and we recommend reading all of it to the end. We also recommend paying some serious attention to using advanced protection algorithms to keep yourself safe (and moving on to decentralized networks that use blockchain that no-one can tamper with like the US is).

Images courtesy of Cointelegraph, Egyptian Streets.

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