More African countries are relying on an Israeli surveillance tool to snoop on private citizens

As African governments crack down on protestors and opposition leaders in countries such as Nigeria and Uganda, it is emerging that state security agencies in seven regional countries are among 25 around the world using an Israeli surveillance platform to snoop on private communications of citizens.

A new report names Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, and Zambia as the African countries that have been employing Circles’ surveillance platforms to exploit flaws in telecoms systems and to access telephone calls, SMS messages and location services.

The report by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab titled Running in Circles: Uncovering the Clients of Cyberespionage Firm Circles offers new perspectives detailing how the telecom surveillance company, Circles has deployed its platforms across Africa, helping state security departments to snoop on communications of opposition politicians, journalists, and protestors.

It’s worth noting Circles is said to be affiliated with Tel Aviv-based NSO Group, which became globally known last year for the Pegasus spyware scandal after it was reported to have been used to exploit a vulnerability in the popular WhatsApp app to spy opposition organizers in several countries.

One such example is Botswana, where Citizen Lab has detailed how the Directorate for Intelligence and Security’s domain was used to identify two snooping systems linked to Circles platforms. This was undertaken through cryptographic TLS certificates signed under “” which is a domain name linked to the country’s state security and defense department. The targets for this surveillance seemed to have been media houses, journalists, and their sources in cases involving corruption by politicians.

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In Kenya, Safaricom spys on you on behalf of government. They don’t even need any Israeli software.