Donncha (“Done-a-ka”) Ó Cearbhaill (IE/DE) is a hacker and cybersecurity expert. His security research was foundational to the award-winning Pegasus Project, which exposed one of the largest surveillance scandals in recent history.
He is a skilled digital investigator who is passionate about protecting journalists, activists and other members of civil society from unlawful surveillance and other human rights abuses.
Donncha Ó Cearbhaill (IE/DE) is a hacker and security researcher. He is a leading expert on cybersecurity with a focus on targeted digital surveillance and other evolving threats facing journalists, activists and others members of civil society.
Donncha has over a decade of experience in security and surveillance research, including at Amnesty International’s Security Lab where he has led innovative and highly technical investigations to expose human rights abuses enabled by the mercenary cyber-surveillance industry.
In 2021, Donncha’s technical research was foundational to the award-winning Pegasus Project, an international journalistic collaboration which sparked the biggest global surveillance scandal in recent history. The investigation led to a European Parliament inquiry into government spyware, legal action from major technology companies, government sanctions against the spyware vendor NSO Group and numerous legal complaints from individuals who had their phones unlawfully hacked. The Pegasus Project was awarded the European Parliament’s Daphne Caruana Galizia journalism prize, a George Polk Award, and the RSF Impact Prize.
Other technical investigations include identifying critical privacy and security risks in the COVID contact tracing apps of Bahrain, Kuwait, and Norway, which pushed the Norwegian government shut down their first app and move to an implementation based on privacy-by-design principles. His vulnerability research work has identified serious remote code execution vulnerabilities in software such as Ubuntu which is widely used by millions.
His work been featured in The Guardian, BBC World News, Le Monde, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, and Die Zeit, among others. As an expert witness, he has been invited to speak at the European Parliament and the Polish Senate.
Before joining Amnesty International, he worked with and supported other non-profit organisations including the Tor Project and eQualit.ie, where he developed a free web security service for civil society and independent media organisations.
Donncha has spoken to numerous conferences about his research and activism including the Chaos Communication Congress, Virus Bulletin, Re:Publica and many more.
Donncha holds a B.A. Medicinal Chemistry from Trinity College, Dublin.