Egypt sponsored an oil event with climate conference mailing lists

Egypt sponsored an oil event with climate conference mailing lists

Participants in Cop27, the United Nations conference on climate, received an unexpected email in their inbox at 12.45 pm, Italian time, on Tuesday 22. The message, which opened with the face of Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi , contains an invitation to another event, scheduled for 13 and 14 February 2023. The theme is oil . Just over forty-eight hours after the close of the UN conference on climate, which brings home a fund for reparations for the damage caused by climate disasters but no greater commitment to exit from fossil fuels, Egypt uses the mailing lists of delegates and journalists to publicize a meeting dedicated to crude oil.

Over 500 exhibitors, estimated thirty thousand participants, tickets between one thousand and two thousand dollars: Egypts Strategic Conference, this is the name of the gathering, brings together important names in the sector, the elite of the world's black gold. Tarek El Molla, Egyptian Minister of Oil, opens the list. Followed by Haitham Al Ghais, secretary general of OPEC , the organization of the oil exporting countries. Then there is Ali Sabt BenSabt, secretary general of the Arab OPEC.

The email received today by the Cop27 delegates (photo: Antonio Piemontese)

Several Italians have already been announced. There is Lorenzo Simonelli, president and CEO of Baker Hughes, one of the largest companies in the field of oil services. But also Antonio Pietri, CEO of AspenTech, a consulting company that produces software for various industrial sectors, including oil & gas and mining, and Alessandro Puliti, CEO of Saipem, a spa that operates in the services sector for the energy and infrastructure sectors .

Can the UN guarantee the IT security of those participating in COP?

In short, two days after the conclusion in Sharm El Sheikh of a conference which decided to set up a fund to compensate countries affected by climatic disasters caused mainly by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels, Egypt organizes one of the largest events dedicated to those who extract hydrocarbons. And, what's worse, it does so using the mailing lists put together for the United Nations conference. Email addresses that should have been used for purposes related to Cop27, under the observation of the Glass Palace.

The email received today by the Cop27 delegates (photo: Antonio Piemontese)

Not only that. The complicated Cop27 accreditation procedure required, as every year, the insertion of a quantity of personal data: name, surname, date of birth, place of residence, telephone numbers, email address, photographs. It's still. To enter Egypt, as the writer can testify having taken part in Cop27 in person, it was necessary to deliver the passport for three working days to the Egyptian embassy in via Timavo in Milan.

The conference partners, among including many well-known names in global oil and gas (photo: Antonio Piemontese)

As several surveys have revealed, the official Cop27 application was designed to collect data from users' mobile phones. To use it, it was necessary to give consent to access the microphone, camera, contacts and GPS. According to various IT security experts interviewed by Politico, it would not be possible to remove the application from the mobile phone even by deleting it. Since the software was developed by Egypt's Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the fear is that the backdoor left open will lead directly to the Cairo executive. And on those lists there are names of activists, journalists, politicians.

As was able to ascertain, many delegations downloaded the app and took it to the negotiating rooms, including bilateral and confidential ones. France, Germany, Brazil, Indonesia, Italy: there are hundreds, more likely thousands, of the delegates who have spent weeks with a potential bug installed in their mobile phones. Also at home, given that the software was available before November 6, the start date of the works.

Exhausted negotiators met at the airport told this newspaper, under the guarantee of anonymity, that the Egyptian security forces, during airport checks before the return flight, asked to return the distributed Egyptian sim cards free together with the welcome kit at Cop27 and used during the conference. To collect it, it was necessary to identify oneself with the United Nations badge: each sim card is therefore linked to a precise name and surname. The sources spoke to refused to hand over the cards, which would have potentially allowed the government to retroactively trace the call list and much other information.

Cop27 is becoming an oppressive Big brother The official app of the climate conference puts the cybersecurity of those who use it at risk. Activists, delegates and journalists feel spied on. And the Egyptian regime is not hiding its authoritarian methods. An oppressive atmosphere undermines the success of the negotiations

Mass filing for activists

Philip Luther, director for Africa and the Middle East of Amnesty International, was clear with : “ The danger for Egyptian activists it begins when the lights of the COP have gone out". Sad figures armed with mobile phones roamed the pavilions, filming the conference participants with Egyptian features to file them. 

The writer was followed by two individuals on the day of the publication of a piece on the oppression of espionage in the avenues and in the press room, appeared behind according to the pattern that Luther had recounted a few hours earlier.To report the incident, the reference was the security control room of the site, which for the two weeks of the conference is UN territory: but on the premises, international and Egyptian operators celery and worked together. When asked to speak privately with a rapp representative of the Palazzo di Vetro, after leaving, he confirmed that reports of tailings and surveillance arrived every day, so much so that a special email address was set up whose correspondence ended up directly on international servers. Local security personnel, the agent confided, were insistent on asking questions about anyone who came into contact with the blue uniforms. Questions, which, he reports (and hopefully) remained unanswered.

Egyptian flag in front of Cop. This stolen shot cost us a series of decidedly unfriendly looks from the security gorillas (photo: Antonio Piemontese)

Photo: Antonio Piemontese

Dossier on the activists available to the regime

Cop27 it has become a giant mass-filing hub for Egypt. By cross-referencing the data of international delegates and politicians with those of activists, al Sisi's regime will have a gigantic dossier at its disposal to use to incriminate its opponents. It doesn't take much in the country to be jailed and tortured, Luther says. “ The pattern is known ” And at this point, it is legitimate to ask: where is the United Nations? And where did the data go? Why was it not possible to guarantee the security of an international conference which brought together heads of state and government, ministers, activists and journalists from nearly two hundred countries?

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