Category: "ICT"

Ethiopia suspected of using spyware to spy on journalists and opposition members

March 13th, 2013

From Ethiopia to Vietnam, researchers map reach of German-made government spy software

LONDON — The discovery of a group of servers linked to an elusive espionage campaign is providing new details about a high-tech piece of spy software that some fear may be targeting dissidents living under oppressive regimes.

A Canadian research center said Wednesday that it had identified 25 different countries that host servers linked to FinFisher, a Trojan horse program which can dodge anti-virus protections to steal data, log keystrokes, eavesdrop on Skype calls, and turn microphones and webcams into live surveillance devices.

The report said evidence for the Ethiopian government’s use of FinFisher was particularly strong, explaining that Citizen Lab had found an example of the spyware which spread through a booby-trapped email purporting to carry images of Ethiopian opposition figures. Once the Trojan was downloaded, it would connect to a server being hosted by Ethiopia’s national telecommunications provider, Ethio Telecom.

It’s not clear who the Trojan’s intended targets might have been, although online messages have provided key evidence in several recent terror cases that have resulted in the incarceration of media and opposition figures.

Journalist Reyot Alemu was arrested in 2011 after she was caught attempting to anonymously email articles to a U.S.-based opposition website, while opposition leader Andualem Arage is currently appealing the life sentence he received last year after authorities got hold of his Skype conversation with an alleged enemy of the Ethiopian state.

Ethiopian opposition leader and Bucknell University academic Berhanu Nega said he had no proof that he or his colleagues had been hacked by the Ethiopian government, but he said he wouldn’t be surprised.

He said opposition figures had long been careful on the phone or over email, but he called FinFisher “the most pervasive kind of spying that we have been confronted with.

“We’re now trying to clear our computers.”

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FinSpy in Ethiopia

We analyzed a recently acquired malware sample and identified it as FinSpy. The malware uses images of members of the Ethiopian opposition group, Ginbot 7, as bait. The malware communicates with a FinSpy Command & Control server in Ethiopia, which was first identified by Rapid7 in August 2012. The server has been detected in every round of scanning, and remains operational at the time of this writing. It can be found in the following address block run by Ethio Telecom, Ethiopia’s state-owned telecommunications provider

The server appears to be updated in a manner consistent with other servers, including servers in Bahrain and Turkmenistan.

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IBM in Ethiopia: it's all about data

February 7th, 2013
Ginni Rometty, IBM’s chief executive

IBM in Ethiopia: it's all about data

By Katrina Manson

Financial Times

The link between one of the world’s most powerful corporate leaders and a small bank in Ethiopia might not be immediately obvious. In this case, it’s an IBM server, which powers Awash International Bank. But soon it could be a lot more if Ginni Rometty (pictured) has anything to do with it.

Rometty, IBM’s chief executive, is spending a week in Africa with her top 15 executives. It’s the first time so many of them have been in one place outside New York. It’s also the first time IBM has convened its chief executives from all over the continent.

Among them were 54 business executives who had flown in from across Africa for Wednesday’s “Smarter Planet Leadership Forum” in Nairobi on everything from “big data” to “the future of technology in Africa”.

It is part of a growing effort to make a play for the one-billion-person continent’s economic potential and its ability to take on new technologies to solve developing-world problems, from creating new traffic systems to identifying counterfeit drugs. It also fits with IBM’s recent figures: while the company’s overall fourth quarter revenues were flat, emerging markets were up 7 per cent.

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Tablet as teacher: Poor Ethiopian kids learn ABCs

December 24th, 2012

Tablet as teacher: Poor Ethiopian kids learn ABCs


WENCHI, Ethiopia (AP)
— The kids in this volcano-rim village wear filthy, ragged clothes. They sleep beside cows and sheep in huts made of sticks and mud. They don't go to school. Yet they all can chant the English alphabet, and some can spell words.

The key to their success: 20 tablet computers dropped off in their Ethiopian village in February by a group called One Laptop Per Child.

The goal is to find out whether children using today's new technology can teach themselves to read in places where no schools or teachers exist. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers analyzing the project data say they're already startled.

"What I think has already happened is that the kids have already learned more than they would have in one year of kindergarten," said Matt Keller, who runs the Ethiopia program.
The fastest learner is 8-year-old Kelbesa Negusse, the first to turn on one of the Motorola Xoom tablets last February. Its camera was disabled to save memory, yet within weeks Kelbesa had figured out the tablet's workings and made the camera work.

He proclaimed himself a lion, a marker of accomplishment in Ethiopia.

Rad more from AP

Ethiopia Permits Mobile Banking and Money Services

November 18th, 2012
mobile banking
Ethiopia is one of the few remaining African countries to introduce mobile banking, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 Picture VOA

Ethiopia Permits Mobile Banking and Money Services

VOA News

Ethiopia is one of the last countries in Africa to permit mobile banking.

Mobile banking has proved to be profitable in the developing world, where many people still do not use banks. Earlier this year, the World Bank reported that seventy-five percent of the world’s poor are “unbanked.” That is about two point five billion people. Banking through mobile telephones lets people take part in financial services even if they are not near a bank office.

In Africa, only Ethiopia and Zimbabwe do not provide mobile money services. Now, that will change for Ethiopia.

BelCash and M-Birr are mobile banking technology providers. They have been setting up mobile banking and mobile money services in Ethiopia for the past three years.

Dutch company BelCash is working in partnership with banks to provide easier access to financing through bank accounts. Ireland-based M-Birr is a mobile money service that works with micro finance groups where no registration at a bank is needed.

Ethiopia’s mobile industry is young. And wireless service coverage in the country is not well developed. The pressure on the wireless network is expected to increase.

In the past four years, the number of mobile users grew from three to seventeen million. And Ethiopia’s telecommunications provider, Ethio Telecom, expects that number to grow to forty million in the next three years.

The government closely controls Ethiopia’s telecommunications market. That means there is only one provider. Competition is not permitted.

M-Birr General Manager Thierry Artaud says Ethiopia’s neighbors have several mobile providers.

"If you look at your neighbors, Kenya, Tanzania Uganda, they all have multiple mobile operators and they all have mobile money services and even multiple mobile money services.”

He says, if Ethiopia had no restrictions, his company would have to compete with larger companies.

Ethiopia has looked at other developing countries with mobile banking. National Bank of Ethiopia officials visited Kenya, Pakistan and Brazil.

Frezer Ayalew is with the National Bank of Ethiopia. He says mobile banking services will help the country.

“For the economy it has great contribution in terms of mobilizing domestic savings with these services.”

The National Bank of Ethiopia recently finished a draft order on how mobile banking services should be structured. This comes as more companies have shown interest in starting mobile banking services.

Ethiopia children hack tablets in 5 months with zero instruction

November 1st, 2012
Self-taught: Children in Ethiopia are learning to use tablets distributed by OLPC.
Photos courtesy of Matt Keller

Ethiopia children 'master tablet PCs'

BBC Today

American researchers from the organisation Global Advocacy, One Laptop Per Child have mounted an experiment in two small Ethiopian villages to see the effect of new technology on children in remote regions of the developing world.
Helped by the Ethiopian government, they gave out tablet PCs, programmed in English and without any instructions, to every child between four and eleven years old in their target areas.
Early findings, they say, are astonishing and appear to suggest that tablets may do more for some children's education than schools or teachers. Global Advocacy's Matt Keller explained the thinking behind the experiment to the Today programme's Mike Thomson.

Listen to the Story from BBC Radio 4


Self-taught: Children in Ethiopia are learning to use tablets distributed by OLPC.
Photos courtesy of Matt Keller

Ethiopian kids hack OLPCs in 5 months with zero instruction

What happens if you give a thousand Motorola Zoom tablet PCs to Ethiopian kids who have never even seen a printed word? Within five months, they'll start teaching themselves English while circumventing the security on your OS to customize settings and activate disabled hardware. Whoa.

The One Laptop Per Child project started as a way of delivering technology and resources to schools in countries with little or no education infrastructure, using inexpensive computers to improve traditional curricula. What the OLPC Project has realized over the last five or six years, though, is that teaching kids stuff is really not that valuable. Yes, knowing all your state capitols how to spell "neighborhood" properly and whatnot isn't a bad thing, but memorizing facts and procedures isn't going to inspire kids to go out and learn by teaching themselves, which is the key to a good education. Instead, OLPC is trying to figure out a way to teach kids to learn, which is what this experiment is all about.

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"We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He'd never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android."

Photos courtesy of Matt Keller