Posts Tagged ‘cyber activism’

Security Without Borders offers free security help to human rights defenders

January 10, 2017

Network World of 3 January 2017 carried an interesting piece on Claudio Guarnieri who launched Security Without Borders which offers free cybersecurity help to journalists, activists and human rights defenders.

For all the wonderful things that the internet has given us, the internet also has been turned into a tool for repression. Nation states have deep pockets and use the imbalance to their own advantage. Technology has been used “to curb dissent, to censor information, to identify and monitor people.” ..Billions of dollars have been poured into surveillance—both passive and active.”Sadly, electronic surveillance and censorship have become so commonplace that nowadays people can get arrested for a tweet. There are places were dissidents are hunted down, using crypto is illegal, where sites are blocked and even internet access can be cut off. “Those who face imprisonment and violence in the pursuit of justice and democracy cannot succeed if they don’t communicate securely as well as remain safe online.”

Security “is a precondition for privacy, which is the key enabler for freedom of expression.” He was not implying that the security should come from big firms, either, since big security businesses often need contracts with the government and are dependent on the national security sector. So, Guarnieri turned to the hacker community and launched Security Without Borders, which “is an open collective of hackers and cybersecurity professionals who volunteer with assisting journalists, human rights defenders, and non-profit organizations with cyber security issues.”

security without borders

The website Security Without Borders has a big red button labeled “Request Assistance.” Activists, journalists and human rights defenders are encouraged to reach out for help. The group of “penetration testers, malware analysts, developers, engineers, system administrators and hackers” from all walks of life offer cybersecurity help. We can assist with web security assessments, conduct breach investigations and analysis, and generally act as an advisor in questions pertaining to cybersecurity. As security services are often expensive to come by, SWB offers these services free to organizations and people fighting against human rights abuse, racism, and other injustices.

When requesting help, you are asked to give your name or organization’s name, an email address, a description of the work you do and what kind of help you need. Hackers and computer security geeks who support freedom of speech are also encouraged to reach out and volunteer their skills.

There is still on-going discussions on the mailing list on issues such as trust and where to draw the line for extending free help to specific groups. Security Without Borders is just getting off the ground, and will have to deal with some of the same problems that earlier efforts in this area face, see e.g:  https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/08/25/datnav-new-guide-to-navigate-and-integrate-digital-data-in-human-rights-research/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/31/protecting-human-rights-defenders-from-hackers-and-improving-digital-security/

Sources:

Security Without Borders: Free security help for dissidents | Network World

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/hacker-claudio-guarnieri-security-without-borders-political-dissidents

New travel guide “Cyber security policy for human rights defenders” issued by GPD

May 20, 2016

On 18 May 2016 Global Partners Digital (GPD) issued a new entry in its series of ‘Travel Guides to the Digital World‘: Cybersecurity Policy for Human Rights Defenders.

Just as a travel guide introduces tourists to the customs, language and geography of a foreign land, the series aims to equip human rights defenders with the information needed to navigate complex areas of internet-related policy from a human rights perspective. Previous guides in the series have focused on internet governance and digital surveillance. The latest entry,  shines the spotlight on an emerging, and increasingly crucial domain – and aims to fill a conspicuous gap. For while much valuable work has already been done on cybersecurity, there are currently few resources for human rights defenders on this issue.

A few years ago, cybersecurity was a word most likely to evoke dreary office trainings on password protection. Today, it is a top priority of states worldwide. 72 countries now have live national cybersecurity strategies, and 102 have National Computer Incident Response Teams (CIRTs). It remains however, a contested, elastic and shifting term which can cover a seemingly endless range of different issues, situations, and policy measures.

In spite of this, human rights defenders have so far been notable for their absence in cybersecurity policymaking spaces. Without the crucial scrutiny they provide, important decisions are being taken without any consideration for their broader implications on the enjoyment of basic human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy. The guide hopes in a small way to address this trend by helping human rights defenders to find their bearings and gain a solid grasp of the institutions, actors and issues at stake.

A few words on structure. In conceptualising the guide, an immediate challenge was the sheer range of definitions available within cybersecurity. We’ve tried to resolve this by grouping issues into three broad categories –  information security, cyber crime and cyber conflict – but we recognise that these overlap. Human rights defenders need to be active not only in challenging the impact of cybersecurity policies, but in reshaping its very meaning, which is why definition is a key focus of the guide.

The guide concludes with a list of recommendations, which are by no means prescriptive or comprehensive, but which hopefully offer some useful starting points for strategic engagement from a human rights perspective.

[GPD are a small team based in Shoreditch in London working with civil society groups, governments, international institutions and businesses to protect and promote human rights values online. Much of its work is carried out with partner organisations in the global South. Global Partners Digital started off in 2005 as Global Partners and Associates (GPA) which was set up to work in the areas of democracy, governance and human rights. As a team within GPA, it initially worked on human rights and traditional media issues. Since then, its work in this field has developed substantially. With the unprecedented growth of the internet and mobile phone technologies – and the challenges and opportunities that these bring – GPD have become increasingly focused on human rights and digital communications. Thus the rebranding as Global Partners Digital in 2013.]

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/new-book-on-internet-policy-and-governance-for-human-rights-defenders/

Source: Introducing GPD’s new travel guide to cybersecurity policy for human rights defenders | Global Partners Digital

EU Parliament says Snowden is human rights defender

October 30, 2015

Media reported on the EU Parliament’s vote to drop criminal charges against Edward Snowden and to encourage members to block his extradition Read the rest of this entry »

Bahaa Nasr teaches cyber security to Syrian opposition against their digital enemies

February 10, 2015

Forbes of 2 February 2015 carries an interesting piece by Thomas Fox-Brewster about Bahaa Nasr, a man who “Is Teaching Syrians To Defend Themselves Against Their Many Digital Enemies“.

After a description of recent attacks on opposition forces of the Syrian regime, the article – which does not distinguish a lot between human rights defenders and armed opposition – states that those under attack are in need of better cyber awareness. “That’s where Bahaa Nasr comes in. He runs Cyber Arabs, which provides digital security training not only for Syrians but for activists, human rights defenders and journalists across the Arab world.

Bahaa Nasr of Cyber Arabs - AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

Syria, of course, has been a strong focus of our work in the past years due to the multitude of risks CSO [civil society organization) activists are facing there. While originally the main threat came from the regime and from groups like the SEA, now there is more and more concern about extremist groups like ISIS also resorting to cyber attacks,” he tells me over encrypted email.

He notes one of the most common techniques is social engineering, as the opposition has come to realise. But there are also targeted malware attacks, such as those allegedly launched by ISIS.

Then there are cruder methods at play in Syria’s information war. “Checkpoints are also a problem in many places where they often confiscate computers and mobile phones and thus gain access to data and accounts and new entry points for social engineering attacks,” Nasr adds.

He claims Cyber Arabs has helped around 500 activists, journalists, human rights defenders and citizen journalists from 17 Arab countries. At least 200 were from Syria. Training takes place in person and online, covering general digital hygiene: recognising and avoiding phishing attacks or social engineering attempts, good password practices, learning about different kinds of malware and how to improve the security of social media accounts. Cyber Arabs also teaches use of tools tailored for people’s needs, including secure email and instant messaging, and encryption. There’s an Android app to help stay up to date on the latest threats in the region too.

Nasr has been working closely with a range of influential groups, including Citizen Lab, a research collective based in Toronto, which focuses on digital attacks on activists. John Scott Railton, a member of Citizen Lab, described Cyber Arabs’ work as simply “amazing”. With such help available to Syrians, it’s hoped they won’t suffer from smart online offensives on their systems as they try to bring an end to a horrific, protracted war.”

This Man Is Teaching Syrians To Defend Themselves Against Their Many Digital Enemies.

Snowden a human rights defender? – Russia seems to think so

June 13, 2013

Human Rights activist, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a national her, anti-fascism New Yorkers said at a rally on June 10
(Getty Images)

Yesterday I referred to the difficulty of defining human rights defenders in relation to a Nigerian politician, and here comes another, maybe more difficult one:

As the United States Justice Department prepare charges against  Edward Snowden, former federal government contractor who revealed the NSA’s secret surveillance program rights violation, as ABC News reportedRussia said Tuesday 11 June that it would consider a request from him for safe haven and The Guardian reported tuesday that Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says any appeal from whistleblower Edward Snowden for asylum will be looked at ‘according to facts,’

Aleksey Pushkov, chair of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee, said Snowden is a “human rights activist.” Referring to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Pushkov said, “In this sense, Snowden — like Assange — is a human-rights activist.”

I’m willing to sacrifice all that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people all around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building,” Snowden himself told The Guardian.

Russia might aid Snowden human rights activist – National Human Rights | Examiner.com.

FIDH urges UN Human Rights Council to condemn Vietnam over jailing of dozens of cyber-dissidents

March 10, 2013

On 10 January 2013 I posted something on the largest ever trial of internet dissidents in Viet Nam. On 8 March this issue was continued in the UN:

We call upon the Council to press Vietnam to put an end to this repression,” said Vo Van Ai, speaking on behalf of Vietnamese campaigners and the International Federation of Human Rights. In a speech to the UN body  he said a total of 32 bloggers and other cyber-dissidents were behind bars in Vietnam, either sentenced or awaiting trial. They face prison terms of up to 16 years.

logo FIDH_seul

Such repression does not serve to protect national security, as the Vietnamese authorities claim, but to stifle the voices of an emerging civil society speaking out on corruption, power abuse, the plight of dispossessed peasants and farmers, human rights and democratic reforms,” he said. He condemned Vietnam’s use of Ordinance 44, a 2002 ruling which authorises the detention of suspected national security offenders without due process of the law and which is increasingly deployed against bloggers, sometimes in psychiatric hospitals.

Fellow-campaigner Penelope Faulker, with the French-based group Work Together for Human Rights, noted that after a 2009 United Nations review (UPR), Hanoi had pledged to uphold freedom of information. “However, in the past year alone, scores of bloggers, online journalists and human rights defenders in Vietnam have been harassed, intimated, subjected to police abuse, or condemned to extremely harsh prison sentences simply for expressing their peaceful views on the Internet,” she told the Council. The southeast Asian country has been branded an “enemy of the Internet” by freedom of expression watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

via: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/03/08/human-rights-activists-push-u-n-for-action-over-vietnams-treatment-of-cyber-protesters/

Digital security first-aid kit for human rights defenders launched by APC

January 31, 2013

On 29 January 2013 the Association for Progressive Communications(APC) released its new resource “Digital security first-aid kit for human rights defenders.”

It is an interactive website publication available online at http://rights.apc.org/infosec

In the face of increased human rights surveillance of ever-growing
online traffic and the multiplication of commercial interest in user
data, APC’s Connect Your Rights! campaign is today putting out tips and
tricks for human rights defenders to circumvent threats to their privacy
and their information.
The kit is meant to help people working to defend human rights to act
quickly to straighten-out situations in which their personal data is
compromised or in which they suspect they have fallen victim to online
wiretapping. Relying on eight different scenarios, information is
presented to users in-need using an accessible format. The digital
security first-aid kit advises on tactics such as how to access blocked
websites and how to encrypt electronic mail.
The Digital security first-aid kit is a living project – New topic areas
will be added to the kit in future.humanrightslogo_Goodies_14_LogoVorlagenWe want to be sure that this toolkit will actually help human rights
activists wherever needed,” Mallory Knodel of APC says. “We are working
through our network of local technology groups in more than 40 countries
to achieve this”.

Connect Your Rights! – an awareness-building and advocacy campaign aimed
at framing internet rights as human rights – has produced issue papers,
infographics and many articles about internet rights violations. It monitors internet rights via its online platform. Please visithttp://rights.apc.org

*Digital security First Aid Kit* <http://rights.apc.org/infosec>
*Connect Your Rights!* <http://rights.apc.org>

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international
network and non-profit organisation founded in 1990: <http://www.apc.org>

On-line Activism and the Real World: a blogger’s honest thinking

October 1, 2011

One of the winning blogs of the Communication Initiative, by Bhumika Ghimire, expresses the doubts that many of us feel when we read the hyperbole assessments of how the new media are going to  the  save the world and bring about the realisation of human rights. Some of the things Bhumika states:

Online Activism

“Are cyber campaigns comparable to the real world action?”

“What about online activists in repressive regimes like China, Burma, North Korea, Iran? These activists and their work in spreading the word, creating networks and keeping the fight alive is admirable and deserves recognition. In many countries, they face almost the same level of scrutiny from their governments as the real world activists. Do we cyber activists in the developed world face a similar level of threat or harassment? Certainly not.”

“The point is, we have to stop glamorizing all and every cyber activist and give credit where it is due. Recognizing the sacrifice of real heroes will add to the validity of online activism as a real force and help online campaigns be more effective.”

see the whole piece on: Online Activism and the Real World: Where Do We Meet? | Communication, Media, Policy.