The long, ceaseless fight against state power takes many forms:
….Citizen Lab, the watchdog group Deibert founded over a decade ago at the University of Toronto that’s now orbited by a globe-spanning network of hackers, lawyers, and human rights advocates. From exposing the espionage ring that hacked the Dalai Lama to uncovering the commercial spyware being sold to repressive regimes, Citizen Lab has played a pioneering role in combing the Internet to illuminate covert landscapes of global surveillance and censorship. At the same time, it’s also taken the role of an ambassador, connecting the Internet’s various stakeholders from governments to security engineers and civil rights activists.
“When it comes to Citizen Lab, what you have is methodical, careful, but passionate people,” says Gus Hosein, the director of the UK-based Privacy International and a longtime acquaintance of Deibert’s. “That is what I wish every academic research institution was, but clearly they’ve been allowed a degree of freedom that others in academia aren’t given.”
Citizen Lab first made waves in 2009 with “Tracking GhostNet,” a report which exposed a vast electronic spying network that had compromised more than 1,200 computers in 103 countries, ensnaring Tibetan activists, embassies, media outlets, and many others. But it was the boldness of the research—which involved gaining control of an unsecured malware server off the coast of China—that seemed to take the government by surprise. While Citizen Lab only scanned unsecured, public-facing systems, the powers that be apparently thought what they were doing was illegal.
“It’s a bit freaky to hear that,” Deibert said when he recalled the Calgary encounter in an interview with Ars. “When people ask, ‘are you worried about the Chinese or some other adversary out there,’ I say I’m always a bit more worried about my own government, because this is the kind of thing I hear occasionally.”