Civil Society

CSOs are particularly vulnerable to data theft, invasion of privacy, and eroded reputations due to data theft.

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) play a pivotal role in our society – informing public policy, advising on critical global issues like poverty and climate change, and providing humanitarian and human rights support for people around the world. They help to develop the other values of democratic life:  tolerance, moderation, compromise, and respect for opposing points of view. Without this deeper culture of accommodation, democracy cannot be stable. These values cannot simply be taught; they must also be experienced through practice. Furthermore, civil society often advocates for an adequate balance of investment between the different, yet overlapping policy areas of security, defense, governance, development, and protection and promotion of human rights in cyberspace, which is much needed since a lot of these areas often come into conflict here. But CSOs are particularly vulnerable to adversaries using cyber attacks to steal their data, invade the privacy of their people, and to erode their reputations.

  • Civil society organizations and human rights defenders are becoming victims of surveillance software. Some of this software is sold to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in repressive regimes. “Remote Access Trojans” can be bought both legally and on the black market, as well as downloaded for free, and are used to control mobile devices, laptops and computers remotely, capturing all the information input/viewed by the user.
  • It is essential that cyber security initiatives protect the ability to use the internet to exercise the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association. The means of securing networks should also not expose individuals to undue and illegal surveillance and must respect the right to privacy. Civil society needs to approach cyber security in a way that balances the concerns of these different rights.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) that work to protect human rights and civil liberties around the world are being bombarded with persistent and disruptive targeted digital attacks—the same sort of attacks reportedly hitting industry and government. Targeted digital threats undermine CSOs core communications and missions in a significant way, sometimes seriously as a major risk to individual safety.

“Communities @ Risk: Targeted Digital Threats Against Civil Society“, The Munk School of Global Affairs

An unfortunate truth in today’s digital world is that NGOs are routinely targeted by cyber attackers. Hard fought reputations are at risk.

Andrew Watt, CEO -Association of Fundraising Professionals

Files were literally disappearing from our server… We don’t know how much was actually taken. They were clearly letting us know that the files were gone. It took about a week of rebuilding and diagnosing everything. We had to order new servers, we had to write everything and then we had to reload everything.

(Confidential) Rights Group