Government using Circles Platform to Snoop on Texts, Calls and Locate Private Individuals

  • Zimbabwe Government spying on citizens
  • Spyware exploiting SS7 vulnerabilities
  • Israeli telecoms company

Zimbabwe has been mentioned as one of the seven African countries using Israeli cyber espionage spyware to monitor and track targeted individuals.

According to a report titled RUNNING IN CIRCLES by the University of Toronto’s citizen lab, 25 governments worldwide have a history of using tools developed by Israeli telecoms company Circles. Circles only sell their technology to nation-states.

“Using internet scanning we found a unique signature associated with the hostnames of checkpoint firewalls used in circles deployments in at least 25 countries” read the report.

Zimbabwe is said to have used the spyware in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018

Circles exploit vulnerabilities in the global mobile phone system known as Signaling System 7(SS7) to carry out targeted surveillance using just the victim’s cellphone number. SS7 is a set of protocols that allow phone networks to exchange the information needed for passing calls and text messages between each other. hence this system allows third parties to intercept the information.

This brings to light digital surveillance technologies are being used by oppressive governments to crush resistance. increased Internet penetration and smartphone usage has created digital spaces that at times have been used to organise opposition movements and challenge the authority and in response, governments have turned to shutting down the internet or blocking social media apps as seen in Zimbabwe (18 January 2019) and in Uganda (25 January 2021)

Note: SS7 vulnerabilities are mostly exploited in 2 Gand 3G systems as 4G and 5G systems are more secure. The other six African Nations using the spyware are Nigeria, Botswana, Morocco, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya and Zambia.