On Monday, Amnesty International’s Canadian unit reported that a cyberattack funded by China had targeted the organisation. The human rights group claimed to have discovered the hack on October 5 and has since hired forensic investigators and cybersecurity specialists to look into it.
Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General, Ketty Nivyabandi, claimed that the searches in their database were particularly and only about China, Hong Kong, and a few well-known Chinese activists. The organisation was inactive for about three weeks as a result of the breach.
Despite the lack of attempts to monetise the access, Secureworks, a US cybersecurity firm, concluded that the attack was likely carried out by “a threat group sponsored or tasked by the Chinese state.” This was on account of the nature of the searches, the level of sophistication, and the use of particular tools that are distinctive of China-sponsored actors.
Bearing this incident in mind, Nivyabandi urged journalists and activists to upgrade their cybersecurity procedures. She said that as an organisation that promotes human rights around the globe, it is susceptible to being the target of state-sponsored efforts to obstruct or monitor our activities. She added that the safety and privacy of our activists, employees, contributors, and stakeholders remain the first priority, and the firm will not be intimidated by them.
Our office was recently the target of a sophisticated digital security breach, believed to have been sponsored by the Chinese state. There is no evidence donor or membership data was taken. pic.twitter.com/tFqobNldgL— AmnestyCanada (@AmnestyNow) December 5, 2022
Amnesty is one of the organisations that support journalists and human rights defenders who are under surveillance by governmental authorities. That includes confirming instances in which journalists’ and activists’ smartphones have been infected with Pegasus malware, which not only copies the data on the devices but also converts them into real-time listening devices.
Amnesty and the International Federation for Human Rights were among the groups that Chinese hackers were targeting in August, according to the cybersecurity company Recorded Future, through password-stealing methods created to gather credentials. Given the Chinese government’s “documented human rights abuses in relation to Uyghurs, Tibetans, and other ethnic and religious minority groups,” it was said to be especially concerning.c