FinFisher is surveillance software by Gamma International UK Ltd marketing the surveillance solutions to government security officials through exploiting security lapses in anti-virus programs. It is basically a spyware suite designed to allow someone to spy on a computer or mobile device. Described by the company as “Governmental IT Intrusion and Remote Monitoring Solutions”, FinFisher has its command and control servers installed in around 36 countries globally, according to a report and analysis by Citizen Lab. Pakistan is one of those countries, and Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd (PTCL) owns the network where FinFisher server is found.
The FinSpy malware – tool of FinFisher intrusion kit – was often injected in the potential victims’ machines by sending them malicious email. In the analysis, Citizen Lab found that email addresses which were used to send these emails were on the names of some popular journalist names (in the case of Bahraini activists) and the email shared attachments which looked pertaining to the Bahraini turmoil. On opening the attachments, jpeg files were saved on the victim’s computers which were actually executable files. This sort of access gives the attacker clandestine remote access to the victimized machine with data harvesting and exfiltration capabilities. Commonly, someone tricks you into clicking a file – a picture, word document, etc – which actually hides the FinSpy file and silently affects your machine without you or the Anti-Virus program installed in your machine detecting it.
Citizen Lab found that the data like Skype audio calls, chats, key logger and passwords was accessible to the attacker. FinFisher can even secretly use the microphone or webcam in your computer or
These FAQs are being published in collaboration with Bolo Bhi
What is FinFisher?
FinFisher or FinSpy is a piece of computer spyware designed to allow someone to spy on a computer or mobile phone.
Note: This is a Bolo Bhi & Digital Rights Foundation’s open call for support for national and international human rights organizations against espionage and surveillance in Pakistan.
This statement is pursuant to the Citizen Lab report, “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying,” the report describes the results of 1 year of research into the global market for commercial intrusion and monitoring software. The report included a global mapping of the command and control servers used for FinFisher, a remote intrusion and monitoring product line sold to governments. Pakistan was identified among the countries where FinFisher Command and Control servers have been found.
We are a consortium of NGOs and individuals— ARTICLE 19, Association For Progressive Communications, Access Now, Bolo Bhi, Centre For Democracy & Technology, Centre For Peace & Development Initiatives, Christopher Parsons,Chunri Chuopaal, Digital Rights Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, Global Voices Advocacy, Index On Censorship, Intermedia Pakistan, Individual Land Pakistan, Leila Nechwati, Privacy International, Reporters Without Borders, Simon Davies (Privacy Surgeon), Institute for Research Advocacy and Development Pakistan,The Centre for Internet and Society, The Internet Democracy Project India, The Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA), Nawaat — committed to respecting user privacy and promoting freedom of expression and access to information.
We express our dismay and condemnation over the presence of a FinFisher Command and Control server on a network operated by the Pakistan Telecommunication
President Asif Ali Zardari signed the in to law the “Fair Trial Act 2012”, empowering the state to intercept private communications in order to track suspected terrorists in the country. This legislation was approved by National Assembly and went through the senate for approval in December 2012.
The civil society and human rights defenders of Pakistan have been continuously questioning this Act which legalizes the security agencies to collect evidence “by means of modern techniques and devices” like wire-tapping, intercepting emails and SMS text messages that will be accepted in a court in cases registered under five security-related laws. A major concern about this Fair Trial Act is a few of its ambiguous clauses which could be misused against the people of dissent or political and military opponents.
This bill has clauses like: It shall also apply to all transactions or communications originated or concluded within Pakistan or originated or concluded outside Pakistan by any person. [2.(1).(c)] & Any person liable for investigation under the provisions of this Act for a scheduled offence committed partly or fully outside Pakistan shall be dealt with according to the provisions of this Act in the same manner as if such an offence had been committed within Pakistan. [2.(2)] which makes everyone in the world coming inside the domain of suspicious terrorists, which is disturbing to say the least.
The controversies include the way it easily went through the system and kept getting approved which happens rarely in Pakistan. Every time before elections government tries to get as many bills as possible approved which has been a routine in past in the country. But when the bills like Fair Trial Act 2012 get hasty approvals, acts like Domestic Violence Law stay in pending for years. For the record, Domestic Violence Bill was proposed in 2009 but subsequently failed to pass in provincial assemblies except the Sindh Assembly which passed it on 8th March, 2012.
Whether any sections of civil society were included in the drafting and passage of Fair Trial Bill, has yet to be disclosed by the government. Under Article 19A, we demand the government to show the transparency process involved in the consultation process of Fair Trial Act which could be used by the intelligence agencies and powerful sections of the country to violate larger civil rights.
Digital Rights Foundation strongly condemns this gesture of de-alienating civil society groups by the leading political party of country which was democratically elected four years back. While the bill may help security agencies to catch terrorists, the clauses need to be more specific without hurting the privacy rights of citizens of Pakistan.
DRF Joins Hands with Punjab Government and 16 Civil Society Organisations to Enact Right to Information Law
Coalition for Right to Information (CRTI) is working towards the enactment of said law in Pakistan following the international best practises of right to information legislations and implementation of existing information laws.
Punjab province despite being the biggest in Pakistan lacks any proper laws to provide easy access of information to its citizens. Though the tenure of current provincial government is coming to an end but during the previous four years the provincial govenment could only manage to present a draft bill on right to information laws.
Digital Rights Foundation has also joined hands with CRTI in an attempt to put forward specific recommendations aimed at improving the draft bill prepared by Punjab Government. The participants of the conference held at Lahore on January 30th, 2013 unanimously passed ‘CRTI Lahore Declaration’ urging Punjab government to enact law on right to information on priority basis.
The coalition has recommended that the law cannot be restricted only to “citizens of Punjab”, as is suggested in the draft bill. Right to Information is a fundamental right of every Pakistani national and should be implemented all over the country rather than one province. CRTI also welcomes the establishment of Punjab Information Commission to have a strong, focused and effective commission to achieve the objectives.
Being a democratic country, citizens of Pakistan have all the right to know how government uses the powers and resources at its disposal. CRTI strongly opposed any exclusion of documents and information relating to internal working from the public sphere which is clearly an unreasonable restriction and is, therefore, in contravention of Article 19-A of the Constituion. Doing so would negate peoples’ right in this regard and, hence, will undermine their ability to oversee and make suggestions for increasing efficiency or improving performance.
The press release can be accessed here.
Lahore, January 30, 2013: Punjab despite being the biggest province of the country housing over 100 million people has not done legislation to provide its residents easy access to information held by provincial departments. The tenure of the present provincial is coming to a close but only draft bill on right to information has been prepared by the Punjab government. This was stated in conference by Coalition on right to Information, a forum of 17 civil society organizations which is working towards the enactment in Pakistan of right to information laws according to international best practices of right to information legislation and implementation
of existing information laws. The participants of the conference
Some governments need bans to make their presence felt.
It is hardly any surprise that the Pakistani government is one such authority. When you are unable to do anything about a violation of your perceived moral higher ground, it probably feels good to deny access to it, which would supposedly correct and improve the morals of the society at large.
So why Pakistan blocks youtube every now and then, you might ask?
This has not been the first youtube ban, and if it ever gets lifted, it certainly will not be the last. Because censorship somehow satisfies the vain sense of virtue of our nation, because that is all we can do about certain things and it makes us feel good.
At the same time, as we are in a middle of a “democracy”, you know, a democracy that only tolerates enough freedom of speech that the masses are conditioned to tolerate. Not realizing how undemocratic bans on communication channels are. You cannot help but wonder if the ban is really about blocking blasphemous and “indecent” material, whatever in the world that means.
Have you ever considered how vigilant the PTA or the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Pakistan’s information big brother, is when it comes to blocking youtube when the slightest opportunity presents itself before it?
Again I am not really sure if it is actually about the blasphemous material on youtube, especially the seemingly-indefinite current ban which was enforced by the government after they discovered that some people in Pakistan had discovered that some people in Egypt had discovered a trailer of an unimportant second rate anti-Islam motion picture called the Innocence of Muslims.
Even some of the most educated conservatives in the country, justified it. All the seemingly intellectual talk show hosts seemed to endorse the ban as well. This time it is more personal as far as Google is concerned and goes far beyond blocking a page or two, as previously has been the case with Wikipedia and facebook.
This time around, as it concerned the ever popular youtube than the ever popular and the much-easier-to-convince-and-not-easier-to-give-up facebook, the PTA was hoping to mold Google in succumbing to the local traditions and to sacrifice their vicious ideals of American freedom to operate in Pakistan in peace. But apparently to no effect. But that does not mean that the PTA is sitting idle.
PTA had been investing in a powerful mechanism to block hundreds of thousands of websites, particularly pornographic websites. So probably these bans mean something greater, such as the preliminary steps to a greater internet control. This means we would see more messages like the one in the image above whenever we are trying to visit a website with “indecent” content.
Because slowly but surely the ambiguous definition of “indecent” will begin to eat up just about anything that comes down as a threat on the radar of insecurities of the PTA and the nationalistic, religious and ideological ethos of the conservative Pakistani society. So, the government control of the internet and the youtube means the PTA converting it very much into the Pakistani media, which actually kills the entire point of using the internet.
But if the Pakistani government did block the youtube because of the blasphemous video, then there is no sense in lifting it because the video is still there. Isn’t it? As youtube would most probably not remove the video on the basis of the principles of freedom of expression and their terms of services, whether you agree with them or not.
But if the PTA does get youtube to operate under the Pakistani laws, then you can say goodbye to possibly a lot of other content too, such as historical foreign documentaries and particularly atheistic and science youtube channels, which are in their own right “converting” the educated youth to a certain extent. At least its encouragement of critical reasoning shakes up their faith a little. It’s disturbing for the harmony of the society.
I tweeted this a couple of weeks back.
How do I know there is still a government in Pakistan? Youtube is still blocked. -pic.twitter.com/UAoDV0Bw
What I found interesting were a few responses to the tweet. Things like a youtube ban is not something that you cannot live without. The people in old times did not have computers and the internet and youtube, but they lived their lives happily.It’s such a lame argument, if it can hardly be considered one at all. We have been so brainwashed that we can’t even recognize our rights.
It is like saying that you should not claim your rights just because you have been deprived of it for centuries, like the right to education. Furthermore, centuries ago people had also been living without electricity, utilities and they had no CNG to fuel their cars with. Give up all that too and stop complaining about the government then.
Speaking of the government, a couple of days back Senator Rehman Malik, the interior Minister tweeted that he had recommended to lift the ban on youtube and had forwarded the summary to the Prime Minister. He also confirmed that the PTA would be using a “strong firewall” to block anti Islam, blasphemous and pornographic, you know “indecent”, material.
- There was a gr8 demand to unblock Utube from all sections of society esp fellow tweeps..expect the notification tday! Hope u r all happy now [tweet link]
- PTA is finalizing negotations for acquiring a powerful firewall software to totally block pornographic and blasphemous material. [tweet link]
Now, even if the youtube ban is lifted, that is bad news on just so many levels.
Because apparently the government is hellbent for greater internet control and to screw the great internet freedom that Pakistan had enjoyed in the earlier years, largely thanks to the ignorance about it in the conservative circles. Furthermore, I have observed, though I could be wrong, that the mainstream media has been growing more conservative by the day.
Rehman Malik can try all he can to give a shot at progressive actions, but given his party’s resistance to liberalism (they need to get votes) and electoral alliances with obscurantist fundamentalist parties such as Sahebzada Fazal Karim’s Sunni Itehad Council (a prime proponent of the youtube ban), the government will remain a guilty party.
And shortly after Malik’s recommendation, the Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf ordered blocking the youtube again after a brief lift of ban as the moral police immediately discovered that the blasphemous video was still up and running. So much for taking progressive steps. Still I think we must appreciate his individual efforts.
I hardly see any improvements in the near future, as apparently the mainstream Pakistani media is moving far more towards the conservative side of the slider since the Musharraf days. Because it’s about the faith of the Momin.
However, it is really our choice whether we choose to ignore our rights as a nation or whether we continue to indulge in acts of ignorance and obscurantism, fooling ourselves by taking them as acts of religious virtue. Fortunately or unfortunately, this problem is connected with a number of others in our society and are caused by the indoctrination that most of our nation has gone through.
Only secular education with encouragement of critical reasoning can help bring about the necessary change. These would impregnate our children with the values of liberty and reason that would emancipate them from the bonds of religious obscurantism. So it is up to us, whether we want to breed sheep out of farms or raise intelligent individuals who at least know their own rights, if not make the world a better place.
But in the end, this is just for the government of Pakistan, including the politicians and the bureaucracy, to know that there are people in Pakistan who are aware of their rights. They won’t break any laws. Some of them may not want to go to jail to have them and certainly not die for them, at least not me, but they know what it’s about.
Life is more precious than any principles or political correctness, when it comes down to it.
Modified version for Digital Rights Foundation of the post that appeared on the Truth Journal.
For Immediate Release
Lahore, December 22, 2012: The approval of controversial Fair Trial Bill authorizes the state to intercept private communications to thwart acts of terrorism. Digital Rights Foundation observes that this act is an official intrusion on privacy of the people of Pakistan.
According to news reports, the government argues that: “existing laws neither comprehensively provide for nor specifically regulate use of advanced and modern investigative techniques such as covert surveillance and human intelligence, property interference, wire tapping and communication interception that are used extensively in other countries, including the US, the UK and India”
Digital Rights Foundation stands firm with the country’s civil society and internet users, who have been opposing this bill since its inception. DRF has learnt that although the government has taken other political stakeholders’ input to this bill, it has excluded any expressions of concern from civil society activists and organisations.
This bill paves way for the state to tap telephonic and online communications. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said that the bill’s purpose is to eliminate terrorism from the country: ”The bill will be useful to send a message to terrorists that the country was united against them. The bill will protect the ordinary citizen from terrorists.”
But Mr. Prime Minister failed to mention that this bill applies to every citizen of Pakistan except the members of Parliament and Provincial Assemblies (according to the last available draft – approved bill is not available yet). This sends a strongly controversial message to the common citizen by putting the assembly members above the law.
This Act will also work for the state to curb the freedom of speech of activists and human rights defenders in the name of the war against terrorism while keeping its own ministers from any sort of probing which is completely against equality of all citizens of a country.
DRF expresses its grave concern over this bill, which is a blunt attack on the privacy of the country’s netizens, and condemns government’s approach of exclusion of Pakistan’s civil society. If the Prime Minister wishes to unite the country behind this legislative measures, the first step is to include citizens’ views in the process.
Team-DRF tried to gather some stories from Pakistanis for the international Take Back the Tech! 16Days campaign. Here is the story of Eiynah who writes on sexual issues on her blog Nice Mangoes.
“I am a Pakistani-Canadian female blogger/artist and I write/draw about desi sexuality. A topic that many wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole, I’ve chosen to confront, dissect and discuss. Some call it bold and some call it insane… because obviously, being a Pakistani woman and talking openly about the body and its nooks & crannies comes with its disadvantages, its threats and of course its hate mail.
I anticipated that though… so getting lewd comments and anonymous sexually explicit messages doesn’t phase me. We are from a sexually repressed society and any mention of sex coming from a woman is thought to be an open invitation for such remarks, by many.
My aim is to pass on some very basic facts, and open the channel of communication for things that so many people are confused about in our culture. I want to create awareness about things like equality in the bedroom, and Child Sex Abuse… And when I get harassed about raising my voice regarding these things… this is when I’m surprised. I mean, who in their right minds would be against talking about these issues? Who would send me threats about keeping my mouth shut about Child Sex Abuse? Who on earth are these sick minded Pakistanis that view this as me ‘airing Pakistan’s dirty laundry in public’ ? Honestly you’d be surprised at how many comments and angry emails/tweets I receive… telling me to keep our country’s darker side hidden, because apparently speaking about such ills will only bring shame upon us. What a twisted way to view our reality…
This is exactly the kind of mentality that inspires my blog. Despite me being called a devil-worshipper, wannabe atheist, slut, etc… I am motivated to keep writing about such things because I can see it making a difference. I get emails every week from people regarding their stories of abuse. Some of them wish to share on the blog and some don’t. But sharing at all is a huge first step, some have come forward saying that they have never had the courage to speak out before they read others stories on my blog.
So these things definitely outweigh the negative.
I am a woman, a Pakistani woman – And I WILL keep speaking about how Pakistanis from different walks of life, different genders, different orientations are treated unjustly because of their sexuality. It doesn’t matter how many cowards I piss off. Go ahead and leave me your empty words.
Now I’m no sex expert, and never have I claimed to be. I’m just someone with an interest in getting some basic information across – especially to women and the men in their lives….
There are many types and ways of trolling, but generally, they work to disrupt threads of conversation by provoking someone into long, pointless debates, or into an emotional response.
- Write about your experience of targeted harassment and trolling.
- Make it visible, and compel recognition that these are not just isolated incidences, but a gendered online communication culture that needs a collective response.
- Document the experience to build knowledge on how gendered harassment and trolling works, and how to deal with them.
- Share your strategies.
- When your fellow feminist writers, bloggers and tweeps are trolled or harassed, show them your support.
- Post your stories on the Take Back the Tech! map, or share us a link to your post in a comment or by email. Or tweet us @takebackthetech (#takebackthetech #16stories)