People concerned about governments’ cyber-surveillance practices can use a new web tool to spot if their devices have been infected with eavesdropping malware.
Launched by Amnesty International in cooperation with several technology and human rights organisations, the app, called Detekt, will be available to the public for free to download from Amnesty International’s website.
"Governments are increasingly using dangerous and sophisticated technology that allows them to read activists and journalists' private emails and remotely turn on their computer's camera or microphone to secretly record their activities,” said Marek Marczynski, the head of military, security and police at Amnesty.
"They use the technology in a cowardly attempt to prevent abuses from being exposed. Detekt is a simple tool that will alert activists to such intrusions so they can take action. It represents a strike back against governments who are using information obtained through surveillance to arbitrarily detain, illegally arrest and even torture human rights defenders and journalists."
Large-scale government surveillance carried out by the US National Security Agency (NSA) in cooperation with British GCHQ was revealed last year in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The revelation sparked a widespread backlash with public around the world pointing to the unlawfulness of such Big Brother practices. However, the governments were largely defending the actions of the agencies saying that cyber-monitoring is a vital tool in detecting and preventing potential acts of terrorism.
“Encryption technologies have become increasingly popular in the past year following the NSA revelations,” the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) Professor Will Stewart commented.
“The problem is that in a democratic society a balance has to be struck between security and privacy and freedom and by not being open about what they were doing, the agencies such as GCHQ and NSA have put themselves into a difficult position.”
The UK parliament has passed a bill recently giving authorities greater powers to access mobile data for up to a year as part of security measures and checks.
Amnesty International is calling on governments to establish new trade controls that monitor the movement of spyware, and analyse whether it could violate human rights. The charity claims that information published on WikiLeaks shows that spyware manufactured in Germany has been used to monitor human rights lawyers and activists in Bahrain.