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Why Southeast Asia became a spyware hotspot

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the issue of governments and dictatorships using spyware to monitor the smartphones of their citizens, and the efforts by organizations like Amnesty International to expose and combat this practice.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Spyware Targeting Citizens

1. What are some examples of spyware companies that have been used by dictatorships to monitor citizens?

  • The article mentions FinFisher and Hacking Team as major players in the spyware industry, until they were hacked in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
  • It also notes that despite changes in the companies involved, spyware tools have remained broadly available and effective over time.

2. What is the main strategy used by anti-spyware activists to combat this issue?

  • The article states that the work of anti-spyware activists is mostly focused on "pinning down specific buyers and shaming them into giving it up."

3. What recent actions have been taken to expose spyware use by governments?

  • Amnesty International launched a new report calling out Indonesia's national police and federal cybersecurity agency for stockpiling spyware.
  • Researchers claim the tools were being used against Indonesian citizens.

4. What factors have contributed to Southeast Asia becoming a center for the spyware trade?

  • Strong commercial privacy rules in countries like Malaysia and Singapore make it difficult to access information about spyware purchases.
  • The "different jurisdictions in play" complicate efforts to gain insight into spyware export flows.

[02] Challenges in Combating Spyware

1. How effective are tech giants like Apple and Google in defending against spyware attacks?

  • While Apple has been vocal about its attempts to keep spyware off iPhones, iOS trails Android globally and especially in Southeast Asia, where Apple's market share in Indonesia is around 11%.
  • The open nature of Android and customization by manufacturers makes it much harder for the platform to keep out spyware, leaving many Indonesians "largely defenseless."

2. What other efforts are being made to combat the use of commercial spyware?

  • A growing coalition of countries, launched in the U.S. under President Biden, are pledging not to use commercial spyware.
  • The article notes that every country that joins this coalition means fewer customers for spyware makers.
Shared by Daniel Chen ยท
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