spotted, phishing attack on opposition activist [updated march 9]


Phishing and spear-phishing attacks targeting activists, rights defenders, journalists in Azerbaijan is a common occurrence. AIW has documented several of these attacks in recent years. Previously, these cases were investigated and reported by international organizations. The most recent victim of a spear-phishing attack in Azerbaijan was Ruhid Karimli, a political activist, and member of an opposition Popular Front party. 

Karimli, received a message on Facebook messenger, containing a link to this page on Facebook. At first glance, it looks like a page supporting opposition in Azerbaijan. However, Karimli, suspects that this page too was either hacked or is administered by the authorities. There is no information about the administrators, aside from gender [male] and birthday [April 15, 1969]. 

The activist, realized only after clicking on the link, that something was wrong. Quickly he lost access to his personal Facebook account. Karimli told AIW that his Facebook account was registered to his mobile number. Since the activist lost access to his Facebook profile, the number affiliated with the account was removed. When Karimli reached out to the new owners of his Facebook profile, he received a response in the Armenian language, calling him “dishonorable”. 

AIW is closely monitoring the developments and will be sharing updates both about the account recovery and the phishing attack in the following days.

In a separate case, another activist reports of a compromised Facebook account. Narmin Shahmarzade, said she lost access to her Facebook profile on March 9 in what looks like an attempt to discredit the activist. Shahmarzade, was among scores of women who took the streets on March 8, marking International Women’s day in the capital of Baku, and was detained by the police who prevented women from marching peacefully. In an interview with AIW, Shahmarzade said, the hacker, has removed her email and changed her user name. Ahead of March 8, another activist, Gulnara Mehdiyeva was targeted by a page, that leaked her sensitive personal audio messages on Facebook. In recent years, AIW has documented, scores of activists complain and report similar attempts of discrediting, hacking, and account compromise. In some cases, it was possible to investigate the source of attacks, leading to the government institutions in Azerbaijan. 

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