A high-profile human rights organisation has released a tool to help journalists and activists avoid government internet snooping.
Amnesty International said the progam, called Detekt, would help expose spyware programs, some of which are used by governments to monitor journalists and activists.
The program was developed by security researcher Claudio Guarnieri and is being launched in conjunction with the other NGOs Digitale Gesellschaft, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Privacy International.
Marek Marczynski, Head of Military, Security and Police at Amnesty International, said governments around the world were using “cowardly methods” to keep attacks on human rights abuses under wraps.
“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,” he said. “They use the technology in a cowardly attempt to prevent abuses from being exposed”.
The software can detect bugs designed to monitor Skype conversations, which has been used in the past in countries with poor human rights records.
The tool is freely available on the internet. It alerts its users to the fact they are being spied on, giving them the chance to take precautions.
The use of digital surveillance technology against activists has risen in tandem with internet usage, particularly in developing countries.
The Coalition Against Unlawful Surveillance Exports, of which Amnesty is a part, says the surveillance industry is worth £3.2bn, and has contributed to the repression of journalists and activists around the world by exporting products to countries with bad human rights records.
Last month the National Crime Agency was asked to investigate claims that a UK company had helped the Bahraini government spy on activists living in the United Kingdom.