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US agencies warn of state-sponsored cyberattacks on civil society groups

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) emblem is seen at its headquarters in Arlington, Va.

U.S. cybersecurity agencies warn that Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are increasingly targeting civil society organizations worldwide, according to The Record, a news site by cybersecurity firm Recorded Future.

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The FBI, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and Department of Homeland Security warned in an advisory that NGOs, think tanks, human rights activists, and journalists are under threat from state-sponsored cyberattacks aimed at undermining democratic values and conducting surveillance. These organizations often lack sufficient cybersecurity defenses, such as internal IT support and sufficient cyber hygiene, making them vulnerable to tactics such as spyware installation and social engineering.

The advisory emphasizes the need for better cybersecurity measures and support for these high-risk groups, urging software and hardware manufacturers to incorporate stronger security features.

CISA director Jen Easterly stressed the importance of protecting democratic and humanitarian interests, while Citizen Lab's John Scott-Railton called for more proactive support from democracies to address the digital security challenges faced by civil society.

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