An American citizen living in Maryland has sued the Ethiopian government for infecting his computer with secret spyware, wiretapping his private Skype calls, and monitoring his entire family’s every use of the computer for a period of months. EFF is representing the plaintiff in this case, who has asked the court to allow him to use the pseudonym Mr. Kidane – which he uses within the Ethiopian community – in order to protect the safety and wellbeing of his family both in the United States and in Ethiopia.
Mr. Kidane’s computer became compromised after he opened an email containing an infected Word document attachment sent by agents of the Ethiopian government and forwarded to him. After the attachment was opened, FinSpy was surreptitiously downloaded onto his computer from a server located at an Ethiopian IP address. FinSpy then took complete control over his computer and began recording some, possibly all, of the activities undertaken by users of the computer, including both Mr. Kidane and members of his family. It then sent copies of those activities, including Skype calls, to a command and control server located in Ethiopia and controlled by the government.
What are the surveillance capabilities of FinSpy?
Publicly available information about FinSpy confirms that it can do all of the things that occurred on Mr. Kidane’s computer. FinSpy includes a number of features that the government operator may install on infected devices to facilitate different types of monitoring and the acquisition of different types of data. For example, FinSpy includes a feature for extracting saved passwords from more than 20 different web browsers, e-mail programs, and chat programs, and capturing these passwords as the user types them in.
FinSpy can also record Internet telephone calls, text messages, and file transfers transmitted through Skype, record every keystroke on the computer, and take a picture of the contents displayed on a computer’s screen. It can even covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone even when no Skype calls are taking place.
Final Brief For Appellee Ethiopia [PDF]