Menu
Court blocks American from suing Ethiopia for infecting his computer

Court blocks American from suing Ethiopia for infecting his computer

The U.S. court ruled that foreign states are immune from suit in a local court with some exceptions

An appeals court has barred an Ethiopian-born U.S. citizen from filing a civil suit against the African country, which allegedly infected his computer with spyware and monitored his communications.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Tuesday that foreign states are immune from suit in a U.S. court unless an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) applies.

The person, who is referred to in court documents by the pseudonym Kidane, was born in Ethiopia and lived there for 30 years before seeking asylum in the U.S. He lives in Maryland.

The court declined the exception claimed by Kidane, stating that it would abrogate Ethiopia's immunity only if the “tort” or wrongful act occurred entirely in the U.S. "Kidane, by contrast, alleges a transnational tort," the court said. Ethiopia's placement of the spyware on Kidane's computer, although completed in the U.S. when he opened an infected email attachment, began outside the U.S., it added.

The ruling could have far-reaching consequences as it would in effect deprive U.S. citizens of legal remedy if foreign states decide to hack their devices remotely, as long as the condition that most of the tort was done abroad is met.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing Kidane in the case, said Tuesday that the appeals court had held “that foreign governments are free to spy on, injure, or even kill Americans in their own homes--so long as they do so by remote control.”

In late 2012 or early 2013 Kidane's family home computer was allegedly infected by sophisticated spyware, called FinSpy, that was delivered through an attachment to an email that was forwarded to him.

Once his computer had been attacked by the spyware his keystrokes and Skype calls was allegedly captured and then sent to a server controlled by the Ethiopian government, according to the EFF.

The role of FinSpy as a surveillance tool for intelligence and law enforcement agencies has been documented by researchers at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs, who listed a number of command and control servers linked to FinSpy, including one in Ethiopia.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia had asked the appeals court to uphold a previous order of the District Court for the District of Columbia, stating that U.S. courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction in the case, as the exception to the FSIA did not apply because all of the tort did not occur in the U.S.

“Here, the tortious intent was allegedly formulated in Ethiopia and the tortious acts allegedly took place in Ethiopia," according to a filing by a lawyer for the country.

"The actors who committed the alleged tort, according to Appellant, were operating in Ethiopia, the computer servers were located in Ethiopia, the spyware was maintained in Ethiopia, the commands came from Ethiopia, and, while there is no allegation that Ethiopia ever viewed Appellant’s materials, that viewing would have occurred, if ever, in Ethiopia,” it added.

EFF said it is evaluating its options to challenge the ruling.


Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Featured

Slideshows

Kiwi channel comes together for another round of After Hours

Kiwi channel comes together for another round of After Hours

The channel came together for another round of After Hours, with a bumper crowd of distributors, vendors and partners descending on The Jefferson in Auckland. Photos by Maria Stefina.​

Kiwi channel comes together for another round of After Hours
Consegna comes to town with AWS cloud offerings launch in Auckland

Consegna comes to town with AWS cloud offerings launch in Auckland

Emerging start-up Consegna has officially launched its cloud offerings in the New Zealand market, through a kick-off event held at Seafarers Building in Auckland.​ Founded in June 2016, the Auckland-based business is backed by AWS and supported by a global team of cloud specialists, leveraging global managed services partnerships with Rackspace locally.

Consegna comes to town with AWS cloud offerings launch in Auckland
Veritas honours top performing trans-Tasman partners

Veritas honours top performing trans-Tasman partners

Veritas honoured its top performing partners across the channel in Australia and New Zealand, recognising innovation and excellence on both sides of the Tasman. Revealed under the Vivid lights in Sydney, Intalock claimed the coveted Partner of the Year 2017 (Pacific) award, with Data#3 acknowledged for 12 months of strong growth across the market. Meanwhile, Datacom took home the New Zealand honours, with Global Storage and Insentra winning service provider and consulting awards respectively. Dicker Data was recognised as the standout distributor of the year, while Hitachi Data Systems claimed the alliance partner award. Photos by Bob Seary.

Veritas honours top performing trans-Tasman partners
Show Comments