Toward the end of a long workday, one last email dropped into Jawar Mohammed’s inbox. It looked like a news tip, forwarded from an Ethiopian radio station. Mohammed, head of an independent broadcaster based in Minnesota and a leading figure in the Ethiopian opposition movement, wasn’t fooled. He didn’t click the link.
Instead, Mohammed forwarded the message to researchers at the Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto, who confirmed his suspicions. Clicking the link would have turned his phone or computer into the ultimate spying tool: recording sound, video, calls, texts, and passwords—possibly putting Mohammed’s contacts in serious danger. Luckily, Mohammed didn’t need an army of paid hackers to defend against this threat. His own sense for digital security was enough.