Cyber spies target American-Egyptian writer

Published 9:46 am Tuesday, February 14, 2017

PARIS — American-Egyptian author Mona Eltahawy is one of many activists and human rights advocates targeted in a sweeping cyberespionage campaign blamed on Egypt’s government, The Associated Press has found.

A booby-trapped email sent to Eltahawy and examined by the AP shows that she was targeted by the same password-stealing technique used to try to compromise staff at more than half a dozen Egyptian human rights organizations. Digital clues such as matching email addresses employed to send the malicious messages and the use of the same credential-harvesting website proved the same actor was involved.

Eltahawy, a fierce critic of Egypt’s government who has frequently complained about state surveillance, said she felt violated but not surprised.

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“I’m used to this from the Egyptian regime,” she said in a series of telephone conversations with the AP. “I’m not trying to belittle what they’ve done, but I’m used to this.”

Officials in Cairo have yet to speak publicly about the barrage of malicious messages, also known as phishing emails, sent to civil society figures in recent months. The campaign, exposed by internet watchdog group Citizen Lab earlier this month, prompted Eltahawy to tweet that she was among its targets.

Eltahawy’s partner later forwarded copies of the emails to the AP.