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Protection of Environmental Defenders: Safeguarding Fundamental Rights and Environmental Sustainability 

Land and environmental defenders are some of the most passionate and committed people who unfortunately experience significant reprisals, as reported through our Seek Support portal. Instances of arbitrary arrests, harassment, physical attacks, and threats have hampered their work and forced many to withdraw from advocacy.

The survival of our environment and the defence of fundamental rights are interlinked with the protection of environmental advocate. Prioritising these crucial areas of protection is necessary to achieve these interconnected goals:

  1. Legal Protection: Instituting robust legal frameworks that explicitly safeguard the rights of LED proponents against discrimination, harassment, and violence. 
  2. Access to Justice: Guaranteeing access to justice for LEDs. This involves providing adequate legal resources and support to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.
  3. Context-Specific Responses: Recognizing the dynamic challenges faced by environmental defenders, it is crucial to tailor responses to their specific contexts and provide specialised training, resources, and protection mechanisms to address evolving threats.
  4. Inclusion in Climate Policy Formulation: Incorporating environmental protectors into the formulation of climate policies ensures that their voices are heard and their expertise is utilised. This inclusion not only strengthens policy effectiveness but also enhances the legitimacy of environmental governance.
  5. Recognition of Cultural Leaders and Custodians: Acknowledging the rights of cultural leaders and customary landowners as custodians of the land is essential. Their traditional knowledge and stewardship play a vital role in sustainable land management and conservation efforts.

Explore the diverse channels and tools of protection available to LEDs from DPI:

  • Land and Environmental Task Force (LEDTAF): A coalition of diverse organisations providing collective leverage for coordinated response mechanisms for LEDs. Services include legal aid, relocation and rapid response among others.
  • Kyotos (Fireside Chats): Community fireside chats provide a relaxed setting for dialogue, bringing together communities and relevant stakeholders to share information, mediate issues, and address grievances.
  • Digital Security and Security Management Training: To individuals and organisations to enhance operational effectiveness and ensure safety during advocacy efforts.
  • Talk to Your Regulator: Closing the awareness gap on NGO legal frameworks to improve operational efficiency and regulatory compliance for defenders and organisations in the environmental rights landscape.
1corona digital threats

Digital Security Risks Human Rights NGOs were Exposed to during COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdowns

A week after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID 19 a global pandemic, Uganda registered its first case. A month later, the disease was widespread across the country, prompting the operationalization of WHO-recommended and Government-imposed emergency measures to contain the spread of the virus. These included partial and eventually total lockdowns, a ban on social gatherings of more than five people, the shutdown of public transport, air travel, and the closure of businesses except for vital sectors like food and health.

To ensure continuity of operations, NGOs, much like other businesses/organizations across the globe, had to heavily depend on digital tools to continue operations which led to the “Zoom-Era.” The era of working from home/remotely aided by digital applications like conferencing platforms like Zoom, which allows for up to 500 participants, voice, and video, messaging apps, and digital collaborative workspaces in the absence of offices and physical engagement.

For the highly tech-driven economies from the developed world, this transition was undoubtedly an inconvenient adjustment; unfortunately for developing countries like Uganda, with substantial deficiencies in ICT infrastructure, where only a sixth (1/6) of the population has access to the internet, and 36% of the non-internet users are digitally illiterate, it was nothing short of a catastrophe.

The Not-for-profit sector was one of those hardest hit by this transformation since the bulk of their work entails awareness and capacity building engagements, socio-civic advocacy/activism, community meetings, and outreach. 

The Digital Security Alliance (DSA), a coordinated digital security support mechanism for human rights defenders, activists, and journalists in Uganda, that is led by Defenders Protection Initiative, with funding from the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) under the African Digital Rights Fund, undertook the study, to Assessing the Levels of digital security risk to which Human Rights NGOs were Exposed to after the adoption of technology tools for business continuity during the COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdowns in Uganda. 

This study, therefore, sought to investigate the digital security risks associated with the adoption of technological tools given the human rights landscape in Uganda and against the backdrop of the COVID pandemic.

The main objective of the research was; To identify gaps and vulnerabilities that are exposing human rights organizations to digital security risks to develop strategies to build capacity to mitigate any future threats of cyber-attacks, privacy & data breaches.

The study targeted 50 NGOs across Uganda. To obtain comprehensive data sets, it necessitated the selection of respondents from both frontline officers involved in implementing day-to-day activities of human rights NGOs and critical decision-makers such as Executive Directors, Program Managers, Department Heads and Advocacy Officers.

Guided by the research questions; “Did the adoption of digital platforms expose NGO to any cybersecurity-related challenges? Was the adoption of digital platforms effective in NGOs’ business continuity?” we were able to obtain the following evidence.

Level of Exposure to Digital Tools Prior COVID 19

The research revealed that 50% of the respondents were moderately exposed to digital security tools before the COVID 19 lockdown. Frontline offices pointed out that their work primarily constituted physical engagements with their partners and beneficiaries, which limited the number of tech tools and frequency. The most commonly used digital tools were voice conferencing call facilities, voice over internet services like Skype, digital collaboration tools like Google Suite, Gmail, Google Drive, Google Meet, and Google Docs. Social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. However, with the outbreak of COVID 19 and subsequent lockdown, NGOs had to adopt “new” ICT tools and depend on the ones already in use more heavily to ensure

business continuity. Respondents reported to have adopted video conferencing and collaboration platforms; Zoom, BlueJeans, Google Meet, Jitsi, KumoSpace, Microsoft Teams, and GoTo Meetings. These are mainly used to facilitate internal communication/conducting staff meetings (19%), communicate with participants (18%), conducting workshops (15%), communicating and liaising with donors (14%), and providing support to beneficiaries (14%).

Challenges Faced During and as a Result of Adopting ICT Tools

Facilitating business continuity, increasing efficiency, improving time management, and other benefits of information and communication technology (ICT) mainstreaming notwithstanding, the adoption of tech tools was not without challenges. NGO heads reported internet interruptions as their biggest challenge. Interruptions were either unstable or, for the case of rural areas, non-existent networks—slow internet connections due to the minimal broadband coverage. 3G covers only 65% of the population, and LTE/4G covers only 17%.

NGO staff in urban areas with access to 4G speeds that could support data-intensive apps like video conferencing tools were affected by the high cost of data. Individuals reported having spent on average 127,500 UGX per month purchasing internet data packages—a stretch for most middle seized NGOs without an internet budget big enough to cover 127,000 worth of data for each staff.
The above interferences are compounded by frequent power cuts, which affect enabling ICT hardware and infrastructure such as the cell towers, desktops, MiFis, and modems.

Exposure to Digital Security Risks

Much like the COVID 19 pandemic, the adoption of tech tools and mainstreaming of ICT were novel. The timing and abrupt nature of the circumstances also did not allow for adequate preparation and training on using the digital tools and digital security concerns. These, therefore, paused unprecedented risks. 98% of the respondents reported having been exposed to some sort of digital security risk. Of the reported cases, we deduced that 52% of these were exposed to digital threats while using personal computers as opposed to the 48% who faced threats while using organization-provided computers.

It was inferred from the findings that the organizations whose works centres on social development, justice, law and order, health, education, ICT, and accountability reported digital threats more frequently. However, this comes as no surprise, especially in the Ugandan context, whose civic environment is marred by intimidation, torture, and killing of social justice leaders, illegal detentions and evictions, and a restrictive legal framework, among others. However, the research findings highlighted the varying degree in threat level exposure as experienced by different genders and reaffirmed the disproportionate impact of COVID 19 on women and children. This is evidenced by NGOs operating in the thematic area of Women’s rights and reporting the most frequent (26%) exposure to digital security risks from using technology tools adopted during COVID-19 lockdown.

Uganda-martyrs

Uganda Martyrs’ death as a subject to the violation of Human rights.

 As we take the break to remember and mourn for the Uganda martyrs who died due to the violation of their religious rights, we wanted to take a moment today to think of those who are still struggling for their religious rights as workers, and to speak about some of the exploitation that is sadly still prevalent across the world. 

Improving rights around the world is central to our mission of preventing violation of human rights in the working environment. We work with major corporations and organizations to help them understand where there might be risk of religious rights violation in their work places and to identify the tell-tale signs of other various forms of human rights violation . We run campaigns around the globe which seek to raise awareness of different forms of human rights violation, and to help those who may be victims of this violation know their rights and seek support where necessary.  

Ultimately, we seek to encourage people to #SpotTheSigns of violation, speak openly about its realities and report suspicious activity when they see it.  

hacker-attack

Top Ways Businesses get Hacked

Bait and Switch Attack

Using trusted marketing methods such as paid-for advertising on websites, attackers can trick you into visiting malicious sites. When websites sell advertising space, it can be purchased by rogue attackers. The bona fide advertisement can be replaced with a ‘bad’ link that can be used to download malware, lock up your browser, or compromise your systems.

Alternatively, the advertisement may link to a legitimate website, but it will be programmed to redirect you to a harmful site

Key Logger

A key logger is a small piece of software that, when downloaded into your computer, will record every keystroke. The key logger will capture every keystroke on the keyboard, every username, password and credit card number, etc., exposing all of your data and personal information

Denial of Service (DoS\DDoS) Attacks

A Denial of Service attack is a hacking technique designed to flood your web server with a myriad of requests to the point that it overloads the web server resulting in a website crash.

To do this, hackers will deploy botnets or zombie computers that have a single task, flood your web site with data requests

ClickJacking Attacks

This method tricks you into clicking on something different from what you thought you were clicking. The clickjacking element could be a button on a web page that, when clicked, performs another function, allowing others to take control of the computer. The host website may not be aware of the existence of the clickjacking element.

Fake W.A.P.

A hacker can use software to impersonate a wireless access point (W.A.P.), which can connect to the ‘official’ public place W.A.P. that you are using. Once you get connected to the fake W.A.P., a hacker can access your data.

To fool you, the hacker will give the fake W.A.P. an apparent genuine name such as ’T.F. Green Aiport Free WiFi.’

Cookie Theft


The cookies in your web browsers (Chrome, Safari, etc.) store personal data such as browsing history, username, and passwords for different sites we access. Hackers will send I.P. (data) packets that pass through your computer, and they can do that if the website you are browsing doesn’t have an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate. Websites that begin with HTTPS:// are secure, whereas sites that start with HTTP:// (no ‘S’) do not have SSL and are NOT considered secure.

Viruses and Trojans

Viruses or Trojans are malicious software programs that, when installed on your computer, will send your data to the hacker. They can also lock your files, spread to all the computers connected to your network, and perform many other nasty actions.

Seek for a Security Check

As you can see, it is all too easy to have your business systems inadvertently compromised, you can seek for a security check to secure to protect your business. It is tailored to the needs of each business.   click here

delayed-phishing

What you need to know about Delayed Phishing/ Post-Delivery Weaponized URL

Truth is, most of us have ever been a victim of phishing before and with the abundant resources online and trainings that we have so far had, we have become sort of immune to phishing.

Click here to as well look at our blog post about phishing and what you need to know

Our immunity against phishing has so far been boosted by e-mail service providers, mail gateways and even browsers that we use which has all embedded in their systems anti-phishing filters and malicious address scanners.

With all these above, cybercriminals are constantly inventing new, and refining old, circumvention methods. One such method is delayed phishing.

Delayed phishing is an attempt to lure a victim to a malicious or fake site using a technique known as Post-Delivery Weaponized URL.

“As the name suggests, the technique essentially replaces online content with a malicious version after the delivery of an e-mail linking to it. In other words, the potential victim receives an e-mail with a link that points either nowhere or to a legitimate resource that may already be compromised but that at that point has no malicious content. As a result, the message sails through any filters. The protection algorithms find the URL in the text, scan the linked site, see nothing dangerous there, and allow the message through.”

Effecting the malicious link

Attackers operate on the assumption that their victim is a normal worker who sleeps at night. Therefore, delayed phishing messages are sent after midnight (in the victim’s time zone), and become malicious a few hours later, closer to dawn.

If cybercriminals find a specific person to attack, they can study their victim’s daily routine and activate the malicious link depending on when that person checks mail.

Technology behind Delayed Phishing

For delayed phishing to be effective, hackers use at least one of these 2 common methods:

  1. Simple link: In this case, the hackers are the ones who are controlling the target site in that at the time of delivery, the site is safe so it can go through the several security levels it is scanned before it is delivered to your mailbox. At the time of delivery, the link leads to either a meaningless stub or (more commonly) a page with an error 404 message and the malicious version of the site is activated after delivery.
  2. Short-link switcheroo: Several sites offer link shortening services to the world, with this you can get alternative links that are easy to remember and short instead of long and boring links. However, some of this services allow you to alternate the link behind these short links. So the cybercriminals take advantage of this in that, by the time they are sending the email, the short link it pointing to a legitimate site and is swapped to the malicious site after delivery.

Although there is a third technology that is not so common which includes a randomized and short link where there is a probabilistic redirection. That is, the link has a 50% chance of leading to google.com and a 50% chance of opening a phishing site. The possibility of landing on a legitimate site apparently can confuse crawlers (programs for automatic information collection).

Spotting & fighting Delayed Phishing

Ideally, there is need to prevent the phishing link from getting to the user, so rescanning the inbox would seem to be the best strategy.

In some cases, that is doable: for example, if your organization uses a Microsoft Exchange mail server. Kaspersky Security for Microsoft Exchange Server is also included in our Kaspersky Security for Mail Servers and Kaspersky Total Security for Business solutions.