activist blackmailed online [updated September 9]


Rustam Ismayilbeyli is an 18-year-old activist from Azerbaijan who was arrested earlier this summer for staging a protest outside the Ministry of Education. Together with a group of students, he was demanding that the Ministry cancels tuition fees and exams for the academic semester as a result of Covid19. After three of the organizers including Ismayilbeyli were admitted to the ministry police dispersed the crowd and arrested Ismayilbeyli as soon as he exited the government building. 

Ismayilbely was sentenced to 15 days in administrative detention on charges of allegedly disobeying police and violating the quarantine requirements. 

During his detention, his social media accounts and email were hacked. Although he was able to restore access, he was among targets on June 15 when someone with access to his National ID requested a password reset from the social media platform Facebook. It took Ismayilbeyli two months to recover his account. 

On September 7, a fake profile that belonged to the state security informed Ismayilbeyli that unless he steps down from being an organizer of an upcoming rally and starts collaborating with them, personal information including intimate photos of Ismayilbeyli and his girlfriend will be sent to his friends and acquaintances. 

The first account that threatened Ismayilbeyli had since been removed, the second account that did post personal information has removed the post. Instead, Ismayilbeyli told AzNetWatch, the same information is sent around via Whatsapp messenger, with the US number. His email and cloud were compromised during his arrest and Ismayilbeyli suspects, this is when these images were acquired.

Using burner numbers on WhatsApp targeting activists is not new in Azerbaijan. There are plenty of resources online that actually share tips on how to create a secondary line on WhatsApp. What is problematic however is up until now, it was not possible to identify the perpetrators.

On September 9, Ismayilbeyli also reported an attempted break-in into his Telegram account. In a tweet Ismayilbeyli said he keeps receiving verification codes via SMS on his mobile but because he had 2FA in place the account was not compromised.

Translation: There is an attempt to break in my telegram account. They tried taking over my main Telegram account. Now, using a number that I normally don’t use, they have opened a new account. Not sure why.

Translation: Right now, reading the verification codes I am receiving via SMS, they are trying to break into my Telegram account, but they can’t get past the 2FA.

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