Distinguished Speaker Series
The UMBC Center for Cybersecurity and
Dept. of Computer Science & Electrical Engineering

Tracking Hacking: The Disturbing Proliferation of Commercial Spyware

Ronald J. Deibert, Ph.D.
Prof. of Political Science, Director of Citizen Lab
Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto

1–2:00 pm Friday, 23 October 2020

Webex, Mtg. #: 120 360 5372 Password: 4ExV8dCM3J2

Political struggles in and through the global Internet and related technologies are entering into a particularly dangerous phase for openness, security, and human rights. A growing number of governments and private companies have turned to “offensive” operations, with means ranging from sophisticated and expensive to homegrown and cheap. A large and largely unregulated market for commercial surveillance technology is finding willing clientele among the world’s least accountable regimes. Powerful spyware tools are used to infiltrate civil society networks, targeting the devices of journalists, human rights defenders, minority movements, and political opposition, often with lethal consequences. Drawing from the last decade of research at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, I will provide an overview of these disturbing trends and discuss some pathways to repairing and restoring the Internet as a sphere that supports, rather than diminishes, human rights.

Ronald J. Deibert is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, University of Toronto. The Citizen Lab undertakes interdisciplinary research at the intersection of global security, ICTs, and human rights. The research outputs of the Citizen Lab are routinely covered in global media, including over two dozen reports receiving front-page coverage in the New York Times, Washington Post, and other media over the last decade. Deibert is the author of Black Code: Surveillance, Privacy, and the Dark Side of the Internet (Random House: 2013) Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society (House of Anansi: 2020) as well as numerous books, chapters, articles, and reports on Internet censorship, surveillance, and cybersecurity. In 2013, he was appointed to the Order of Ontario and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal, for being “among the first to recognize and take measures to mitigate growing threats to communications rights, openness and security worldwide.”