Research

Research Topics

  • Targeted digital threats against high risk groups
  • Disinformation
  • Digital counterinsurgency
  • The role of mass-market communications tools during periods of political transition and unrest
    • Especially decentralized networks and communications practices
    • And the new class of risks this introduces
  • The role of internet freedom funding & institutions

Selected Recent Research

Crete-Nishihata M, Dalek J, Maynier E & Scott-Railton J Spying On A Budget: Inside a Phishing Operation with Targets in the Tibetan CommunityCitizen Lab, January 30, 2018.

Marczak B, Alexander G, McKune S, Scott-Raiton J & Deibert R Champing at the Cyberbit: Ethiopian Dissidents Targeted with New Commercial SpywareCitizen Lab, December 6, 2017.

Scott-Railton J, Marczak B, Abdulrazzak B, Crete-Nishihata, Deibert R Reckless IV: Director of Mexican Anti-Corruption Group Targeted with NSO Group’s Spyware. Citizen Lab, August 30, 2017.

Scott-Railton J, Marczak B, Abdulrazzak B, Crete-Nishihata, Deibert R Reckless IV: Lawyers for Murdered Mexican Women’s Families Targeted with NSO Spyware. Citizen Lab, August 2, 2017.

Scott-Railton J, Marczak B, Abdulrazzak B, Crete-Nishihata, Deibert R Reckless III: Investigation Into Mexican Mass Disappearance Targeted with NSO Spyware. Citizen Lab, July 10, 2017.

Scott-Railton J, Marczak B, Abdulrazzak B, Crete-Nishihata, Deibert R Reckless Redux: Senior Mexican Legislators and Politicians Targeted with NSO Spyware. Citizen Lab, June 29, 2017.

Scott-Railton J, Marczak B, Abdulrazzak B, Crete-Nishihata, Deibert R Reckless Exploit: Mexican Journalists, Lawyers and a Child Targeted with NSO Spyware. Citizen Lab, June 19, 2017.

Hulcoop A, Scott-Railton J, Tanchak P, Brooks M, Deibert R Tainted Leaks: Disinformation and Phishing With a Russian Nexus. Citizen Lab, May 25, 2017.

Scott-Railton J, Marczak B, Guarnieri C & Nishihata M Bitter Sweet: Supporters of Mexico’s Soda Tax Targeted With NSO Exploit Links. Citizen Lab, Feburary 11, 2017.

Scott-Railton J, Raoof R, Marczak B & Maynier E Nile Phish: Large-Scale Phishing Campaign Targeting Egyptian Civil Society Citizen Lab, Feburary 2, 2017.

Hulcoop A, Brooks B, Maynier E, Scott Railton J & Crete-Nishihata M IT’S PARLIAMENTARY: KeyBoy and the targeting of the Tibetan Community Citizen Lab, November 17, 2016.

Marczak B & Scott-Railton J The Million Dollar Dissident: NSO Group’s iPhone Zero-Days used against a UAE Human Rights Defender Citizen Lab, August 25 2016.

Scott-Railton J, Abdulrazzak B, Hulcoop A, Brooks M, Kleemola K Group5: Syria and the Iranian Connection  Citizen Lab, August 2 2016.

Marczak B & Scott-Railton J Keep Calm and (Don’t) Enable Macros: A New Threat Actor Targets UAE Dissidents Citizen Lab, May 29th 2016.

Scott-Railton J Security for the High Risk User: Separate and Unequal. IEEE Security & Privacy, Issue No.02 – Mar.-Apr. (2016 vol.14).

Deibert R & Scott-Railton J (2016) Digitally Armed and Dangerous: Humanitarian Intervention in the Wired World. In Phil Williams and Dighton Fiddner, Eds. Cyberspace Malevolent Actors, Criminal Opportunities and Strategic Competition (pp. 319-368). Carlisle: United States Army War College.

Dalek J, Crete-Nishihata M & Scott-Railton J Shifting Tactics: Tracking changes in years-long espionage campaign against TibetansCitizen Lab, March 10, 2016.

Scott-Railton J, Marquis-Boire M, Guarnieri C & Marschalek M Packrat: Seven Years of a South American Threat Actor Citizen Lab, December 8 2015.

Anderson C, Crete-Nishihata M, Dehghanpoor C, Deibert R, McKune S, Ottenheimer D, and Scott-Railton J Are the Kids Alright? Digital Risks to Minors from South Korea’s Smart Sheriff Application, CitizenLab, Sept 20 2015.

Scott-Railton, J & Kleemola K. London Calling: Two-Factor Authentication Phishing From Iran, Citizen Lab, August 27 2015.

Bill Marczak, Nicholas Weaver, Jakub Dalek,Roya Ensafi, David Fifield, Sarah McKune, Arn Rey, John Scott-Railton, Ronald Deibert & Vern Paxson. An Analysis of China’s “Great Cannon,” 5th USENIX Workshop on Free and Open Communications on the Internet, August 10, 2015.

Katie Kleemola, Masashi Crete-Nishihata, and John Scott-Railton. Targeted Attacks against Tibetan and Hong Kong Groups Exploiting CVE-2014-4114  Citizen Lab, June 15 2015.

Bill Marczak, Nicholas Weaver, Jakub Dalek,Roya Ensafi, David Fifield, Sarah McKune, Arn Rey, John Scott-Railton, Ronald Deibert & Vern Paxson China’s Great Cannon. Citizen Lab & The International Computer Science Institute, April 10 2015.

Katie Kleemola, Masashi Crete-Nishihata, and John Scott-Railton. Tibetan Uprising Day Malware AttacksCitizen Lab, March 10 2015.

Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton, and Sarah McKune, Hacking Team Reloaded? US-Based Ethiopian Journalists Again Targeted with Spyware. CitizenLab, March 9 2015.

Regalado D, Villeneuve N & Scott-Railton J Behind the Syrian Conflict’s Digital Front LinesFireEye, 2015.

Scott-Railton J & Hardy S 2014 Malware Attack Targeting Syrian ISIS CriticsCitizen Lab, University of Toronto.

Crete-Nishihata M, Dalek J, Deibert R, Hardy S, Kleemola K, McKune S, Poetranto I, Scott-Railton J, Senft A, Sonne B, & Wiseman G 2014 Communities @ Risk: Targeted Digital Threats Against Civil SocietyCitizen Lab, University of Toronto.

Marczak B, Scott-Railton J, Marquis-Boire M & Paxson V 2014 When Governments Hack Opponents: A Look at Actors and Technology, 23rd USENIX Security Symposium, August 20-22, San Diego, CA.

Marquis-Boire M, Scott-Railton J, Guarnieri C & Kleemola K 2014 Police Story: Hacking Team’s Government Surveillance MalwareCitizen Lab, University of Toronto.

Scott-Railton, J 2014 Maliciously Repackaged Psiphon FoundCitizen Lab, University of Toronto.

Marczak B, Guarnieri C, Marquis-Boire M & Scott-Railton J 2014 Hacking Team and the Targeting of Ethiopian Journalists, Citizen Lab, University of Toronto.

Marczak B, Guarnieri C, Marquis-Boire M & Scott-Railton J 2014 Mapping Hacking Team’s “Untraceable” Spyware, Citizen Lab, University of Toronto.

Scott-Railton, John, “Revolutionary Risks: Cyber Technology and Threats in the 2011 Libyan Revolution” (2013). CIWAG Case Studies. 14.

Galperin E, Marquis-Boire M & Scott-Railton 2013  J Quantum of Surveillance: Familiar Actors and Possible False Flags in Syrian Malware Campaigns, EFF & Citizen Lab.

Scott-Railton J & Marquis-Boire M 2013 A Call to Harm: New Malware Attacks Target the Syrian Opposition. Citizen Lab, University of Toronto.

Marquis-Boire M, Anderson C, Dalek J, McKune S & Scott-Railton J 2013 Some Devices Wander By Mistake: Planet Blue Coat ReduxCitizen Lab, University of Toronto.

Marquis-Boire M, Marczak B, Guarnieri C, Scott-Railton J 2013 For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying. Citizen Lab, University of Toronto.

Marquis-Boire M, Dalek J, McKune S, Carrieri M, Crete-Nishihata M, Diebert R, Khan SO, Noman H, Scott-Railton J & Wiseman G 2013 Planet Blue Coat: Mapping Global Censorship and Surveillance Tools. Citizen Lab, University of Toronto.

Marquis-Boire, M Marczak B, Guarnieri C & Scott-Railton J 2013 You Only Click Twice: FinFisher’s Global Proliferation.  Citizen Lab, University of Toronto.

Other Research Projects

Neuroscience

Singer BF, Scott-Railton J & Vezina P. (2012) Unpredictable saccharin reinforcement enhances locomotor responding to amphetamineBehavior & Brain Research 226(1), 340-344.

Read more here: A Gateway Activity? From Slot Machines to Speed, Science Life, 2011.

Scott-Railton J, Arnold G & Vezina P (2006) Appetitive sensitization by amphetamine does not reduce its ability to produce conditioned taste aversion to saccharinBehavior & Brain Research, 175(2), 305-314.

Development & Planning

Mukhija V & Scott-Railton J (2013) The importance of design in affordable housing: lessons from mutual self-help housing in California. Housing Policy Debate, 23(4), 765-780.

Scott-Railton, J (2008) Empowering or Entangling?  Challenges of Participation in Development. Agora, 49-58.

Research in the News

Read          Watch              Listen         Contributions

Read

SELECTED RECENT REPORTS

ResearchDirector of Mexican Anti-Corruption Group Targeted with NSO Group’s Spyware

New York TimesNew York Times (2) (Leer en español), Radio-CanadaThe HillAristegui NoticiasLa Stampa

ResearchReckless IV: Lawyers for Murdered Mexican Women’s Families Targeted with NSO Spyware.

Associated PressAssociated Press (2) (Leer en español), CBCForbesGuardianThe HillArtiste Guinoticias

ResearchReckless III: Investigation Into Mexican Mass Disappearance Targeted with NSO Spyware

NewNew York TimesNew York Times (2), ForbesAssociated PressBBCForeign PolicyReutersUPIAFPFortuneTelevisaEl Universal

ResearchReckless Redux: Senior Mexican Legislators and Politicians Targeted with NSO Spyware

BBCAssociated Press, ReutersGuardianLA TimesThe Hill

Research: Reckless Exploit: Mexican Journalists, Lawyers, and a Child Targeted with NSO Spyware

New York Times (1), New York Times (2), New York Times (3) (Leer en español), New York Times (4), New York Times (5), The GuardianBBCChicago Tribune (Leer en español), EconomistNPRQuartzHaarretzThe TelegraphAssociated PressReutersDeutsche WelleTelesurFox NewsEl FinancieroBuzzFeedVice (1), Vice (2), The VergeBoingBoingLatin PostFronterasMashableThe HillThe RegisterBulletin of The Atomic ScientistsOCCRPInfoSecurity

Research: Tainted Leaks: Disinformation and Phishing With a Russian Nexus

Financial TimesWashington PostReutersAFPWiredCBCMotherboardForbesThe HillMother JonesArs TechnicaGizmodoJust SecurityGlobal NewsIT World CanadaSC Magazine, International Business TimesSpeigel OnlineBank Info Security.

Research: Bitter Sweet: Supporters of Mexico’s Soda Tax Targeted With NSO Exploit Links

New York Times (Leer en español), Associated Press (Leer en español), IB Times, The HillZeitCalcalist, El EconomistaEl Financiero, ReformaLa Journada UNAM, Huffington PostProcesso, VanguardiaSin Embargo, ZetaAnimal Politico, Aristegui Noticias, Informador, MilenioLado B, CronicaBoingBoing, Endgaget, Grub Street, Mother JonesVocativR3D

Research: Nile Phish: Large-Scale Phishing Campaign Targeting Egyptian Civil Society

Associated Press, Vice, The Intercept, The Hill, Egyptian Streets, La Stampa, Slate, Cairo PortalVersion2, Al Nabaa, Middle East Monitor, Al Mesryoon

Research: The Million Dollar Dissident: NSO Group’s iPhone Zero-Days used against a UAE Human Rights Defender

The New York Times, Motherboard, Motherboard (2), Motherboard (3), Gizmodo, Wired, Washington Post, The Guardian, ZDNet, CBC Metro Morning (audio), Associated Press (video), Mashable, Foreign Policy, Reuters, CPJ, Quartz, Ars Technica, Wall Street Journal, BBC News, BBC News (2), The Independent, TechCrunch, CBC News, Telegraph, Business Insider,Al Jazeera, South China Morning Post, SC Magazine, ABC Australia, The Next WebXinhua, The Journal Ireland,The Australian, International Business Times, Buzz Feed News, Computerworld, Threatpost, USA Today, CNET, Financial TimesPCMag, Newsweek, Huffington Post, Techdirt, Engadget, Forbes, The Daily Dot, IT World Canada, Global News, BNN.

ResearchGroup5: Syria and the Iranian Connection

Associated Press BoingBoingBBCVoice of America Persian, IB Times, SoftpediaAsharq Al-Awsat, AlArabiyaSecurityWeek, SC MagazineOkazMilliyet, TwsasRadio SawaForeign Policy.

Research: Packrat: Seven Years of a South American Threat Actor

Associated Press, Vice Motherboard, CBC, ClarinABC News, FortuneSecurity Week, CIO, SoftpediaPC WorldGlobal News, El Universo, The RegisterUS News & World Report, The Washington Free Beacon.

Research: Malware Attack Targeting Syrian ISIS Critics

Associated Press, CNNThe Guardian, BBCForbes, CBC News, Metro News, The Daily Beast, The Register,Pando Daily, Schneier on Security, Ars Technica, IB Times, France24, GMW.cn, CIO Today, SC Magazine, VOA News, HackReadMashable.

Research: China’s Great Cannon

New York Times, Deutsche Welle, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Washington Post (The Switch), Washington Post (editorial 1), Washington Post (editorial 2), Business Insider, Bloomberg, Forbes, CNNi (video included), NBC News, South China Morning Post, Epoch Times, Japan Times, Radio Free Asia, Threatpost, SC Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Register, Foreign Policy, The Hill, Krebs on Security, The Daily Dot, Wired, Fast Company (1), Fast Company (2), Engadget, Gizmodo, Slashdot, BuzzFeed News, PCMag, PCWorld, ZDNet, Popular Mechanics, TechCrunch, Quartz, China Digital Times, Infosecurity, The Verge, Ars Technica, Motherboard, Global Voices Online, CFR’s Cyber Week in Review, The Conversation, US News & World Report, Committee to Protect Journalists, HelpNet Security, The Hill (Apr. 26), MSN, VOA News,  Computer Business Review, National Post, The Hacker News.

GENERAL

Bloomberg Businessweek  The Hackers of Damascus by Stephan Faris (11/15/12)

ABC News  Skype Becomes Operations Center for Syrian Rebels by Lara Setrakian (10/15/12)

Bloomberg Spyware Matching FinFisher Can Take Over IPhones by Vernon Silver (8/29/12)

Washington Post Sanctions aimed at Syria and Iran are hindering opposition, activists say by James Ball (8/14/12)

Bloomberg Cyber Attacks On Activists Traced To FinFisher Spyware Of Gamma by Vernon Silver (7/25/12)

Wired How the Boy Next Door Accidentally Built a Syrian Spy Tool by Robert McMillan  (7/11/12)

 

VOICES PROJECTS

UCLA Magazine Let Freedom Tweet (1/1/12) by Jack Feuer

UCLA Magazine A New Blueprint For Public Life by Jack Feuer (4/1/11)

Libération.fr  Libye: où piocher des infos sur internet? (3/23/11)

PBS Need to Know online  Working around Libya’s communications blackout by Sal Gentlie (3/4/11)

O Globo: Americano dá voz no Twitter a revolucionários da Líbia e do Egito (3/25/11)

LA Times online  Tweeting Libya: @feb17voices by  Lori Kozlowski  (2/21/11)

Zocalo Public Square Ousting Mubarak from Westwood  by Colin Kielty(2/11/11)

Fishbowl LA Jan25 Voices: Egyptian Army Has Begun Firing On Pro-Mubarak ‘Thugs’ by Matthew Fleischer (2/2/11)

PC World  Why there’s no such thing as an internet kill switch by Mike Elgan (2/7/11)

LA Times online EGYPT: Capturing voices with Twitter and a cellphone by Lori Kozlowski (2/2/11)

Time Magazine Meet the Man Tweeting Egypt’s Voices to the World by Stephan Faris (1/27/11)

 

OTHER PROJECTS

Harpers  Six Questions for John Scott-Railton on Cambodia by Ken Silverstein (12/23/09)

Daily Bruin UCLA doctoral student John Scott-Railton uses mapping technology to help villagers in Cambodia and Senegal by Soshee Jau (5/6/10)

 

Watch

BBC World  Revolution, Uploaded. (5/14-15/2011)

France24:  John Scott Railton, founder of Feb 17 voices, pays tribute to Mohammed al Nabbous (3/20/11)**

CBC Connect with Mark Kelley Guest discussing @feb17voices and @jan25voices (2/25/11)

France 24 (English and French Channels), Interviewed (2/25/11)

Aljazeera English Interviewed (2/22/11)

Fox And Friends  U.S. Student Helps Tweet Egyptian Voices (2/5/11)

Reason TV Tweeting Around Egypt’s Web Blackout – Meet John Scott-Railton (2/4/11)

Aljazeera English Bypassing Egypt’s web blackout: How a US-based student made sure the voices of Egyptian protesters were heard. (2/2/11)

Fox 11 UCLA Grad Student Shares Egypt News on Twitter (1/31/11)

Listen

ABC PM UK-made spy software found in Bahrain by Connie Agius (9/10/12)

BBC 5 Morning and evening slots. Guest. Topic: Gaddafi’s Capture (10/20/11)

BBC 5 Outriders Secure activism and hacking phones by Jamillah Knowles (8/30/11)

BBC 5 Guest. Topic:  the security situation in Tripoli (8/28/11)

BBC 5 Guest. Topic:  false reports of Saif al Islam Gaddafi’s capture (8/22/11)

BBC 5 Guest. Topic: the battle for Tripoli (8/21/11)

NTN 24 Guest. Topic: ongoing developments in Tripoli (8/23/11)

ABC John FainMornings  Guest. Topic situation in Libya (8/22/11)

BBC 5: Guest. Topic: the battle for Tripoli (8/20/11)

CBC Radio As it Happens Guest (2/24/11)

ABC, Jon Faine Mornings Interviewed (2/18/11)

BBC World Service guest discussing role of social media.

KPCC Los Angeles “UCLA student turns to Twitter to make sure Egyptian voices heard”(2/1/11)

AlJazeera English Interview (1/31/2011)

PRI The World Egyptians make their voices heard online by Clark Boyd (1/31/11)

Contributions to Others’ Reporting

CNN Computer spyware is newest weapon in Syrian conflict by Ben Brumfield

[graphic] New York Times Siege of the Strategic City of Misurata by Sergio Pecanha and Archie Tse

** The title is inaccurate: Feb17voices was co-founded based on the @jan25voices model with the remarkable Sarah Abdurrahman and Abdulla Darrat