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Amnesty International Says Azerbaijani Activists, Journalists Targeted Online

Amnesty International says human rights activists, journalists, and dissidents in Azerbaijan have been targets of fraudulent computer-based campaigns aimed at gaining access to personal information and private communications.

In a report issued on March 10, Amnesty said the "spear-phishing" attacks had been directed at government critics during the past 13 months.

Victims of the practice have told the watchdog group they believe Azerbaijani authorities are behind the attacks.

Amnesty said it presented its findings to Azerbaijan's government, which said the cases documented had not been reported to Azerbaijani authorities and, therefore, had not been investigated.

Amnesty senior technologist Claudio Guarnieri said, "Our research reveals that a targeted and coordinated cybercampaign is being waged against critical voices in Azerbaijan, many of whom are longtime victims of government repression."

"The malware used has been designed with the express intention of gathering as much private information as possible about a target," Guarnieri said. "Given the profiles of those targeted, it is not hard to see why victims believe the authorities are responsible."

The Amnesty International report details how victims have been targeted using a practice known as "spear phishing," which involves an e-mail with an attachment containing a virus being sent to a target from a fake address.

Amnesty said it was not able to trace the cyberattacks directly to any government officials or agencies.

However, it said, some of the attacks used an IP address from a block of addresses that predominantly host government institutions, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, and state-owned television.

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