Abstract illustration of people using mobile phones with lines interconnecting them, below an icon with the text, 'Predator Files'.

Presentation – Predator Files: How European spyware threatens civil society around the world

The following talk was presented by Donncha Ó Cearbhaill from the Amnesty International Security Lab at the 37c3 Chaos Communications Congress in December 2023.

Talk description

Ever evolving mercenary spyware continues to threaten the safety of activists, journalist and human rights defenders around the world. Following the exposure of the Pegasus spyware scandal, this talk will be a technical deep dive into the tactics and techniques sold by the European-based spyware alliance Intellexa, which is used by governments to infect the devices and infrastructure we all depend on.

As part of the Predator Files investigation, Amnesty International, in partnership with European Investigative Collaborations, uncovered and documented for the first time how the Intellexa Alliance, a European-based surveillance vendor, has supplied advance spyware and surveillance technology to governments around the world, and where it has then been used to target journalists, leading politicians, and European institutions.

Technical specifications and marketing material from surveillance vendors is often kept secret. The resulting information asymmetry prevents defenders in the cybersecurity industry and at-risk civil society groups from understanding the full scope of the threats that they face. This talk will draw on leaked internal documents and technical material, obtained by the Predator Files consortium, which shed light on the evolving technical tactics used by surveillance actors to subvert network infrastructure and deliver digital attacks to targeted individuals.

This talk will conclude with recommendations on possible mitigations and detections which can help protect civil society targets and the wider internet ecosystem from some of the attack vectors offered by this company.