The Citizen Lab Works with United Arab Emirates Human Rights Defender, Ahmed Mansoor, to identify Exploit Infrastructure with RiskIQ PassiveTotal
In an operation named “Stealth Falcon,” The Citizen Lab leveraged PassiveTotal’s broad array of internet data sets and advanced correlation technologies, querying a series of IP addresses used by threat actors targeting UAE human rights activists. A query returned a related domain, as well as an email address that differed from known Stealth Falcon infrastructure. Pivoting across relevant PassiveTotal data sets, The Citizen Lab connected the email and domain to a domain that was registered to NSO Group. Suspecting that these domains were part of an exploit delivery infrastructure, they began seeking evidence of messages containing links to the network.
Months later, renowned human rights defender, Ahmed Mansoor, one of the UAE Five, shared two text messages with The Citizen Lab containing links identified as part of the exploit infrastructure. The Citizen Lab was able to successfully trigger the exploit infrastructure to fire against a device and captured the payload. This led to the discovery of a remote jailbreak using a string of zero-days prompting worldwide attention and an iOS security update from Apple. Ultimately, using PassiveTotal, The Citizen Lab connected the domain registration information from an initial phishing e-mail to a range of other malicious and fake news websites.
“Analysts at The Citizen Lab have been using PassiveTotal in investigations since the very first beta of the platform in 2014. Tools like PassiveTotal help us punch above our weight. Its ease of use, rich data set, and ongoing evolution of its features make it an excellent tool for our research, and a benchmark that we compare other options against,” said Masashi Crete-Nishihata, research manager, The Citizen Lab.
To learn more about how RiskIQ PassiveTotal to support investigations that contribute to the public good, please read RiskIQ’s blog post, RiskIQ’s PassiveTotal: Enabling The Citizen Lab Investigations.
To read the related case study about the work with The Citizen Lab, please visit https://www.riskiq.com/case-study/the-citizen-lab-defending-civil-society-with-passivetotal.
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About The Citizen Lab
The Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary research group at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, that investigates targeted digital espionage operations against civil society groups. The group is dependent on the generous support of cyber security companies to help them access and work with threat intelligence products for their research.