Posts Tagged ‘Panic Button’

Colombia and Mexico: problems with national panic button devices for human rights defenders

December 24, 2019

A GPS-enabled “panic button” that Colombia‘s government has issued ito abut 400 persons is supposed to summon help for human-rights defenders or journalists if they are threatened. But it the article claims that it has technical flaws that could let hostile parties disable it, eavesdrop on conversations and track users‘ movements, according to an independent security audit conducted for The Associated Press. There is no evidence the vulnerabilities have been exploited, but are alarmed. “This is negligent in the extreme,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, calling the finding “a tremendous security failure.

Over the past four years, other “distress alarms” and smartphone apps have been deployed or tested around the world, with mixed results. When effective, they can be crucial lifelines against criminal gangs, paramilitary groups or the hostile security forces of repressive regimes. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/06/23/today-official-launch-of-ais-panic-button-a-new-app-to-fight-attack-kidnap-and-torture/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/04/24/the-natalia-gps-alarm-bracelet-wins-golden-egg-awards-in-stockholm/]

The “boton de apoyo,” distributed by Colombia‘s Office of National Protection is a keychain-style fob. Its Chinese manufacturer markets it under the name EV-07 for tracking children, pets and the elderly. The operates on a wireless network, has a built-in microphone and receiver and can be mapped remotely with geo-location software. A button marked “SOS” calls for help when pressed.

A company official, John Chung, acknowledged that Rapid7 notified him of the flaws in December. In keeping with standard industry practice, Rapid7 waited at least two months before publicly disclosing the vulnerabilities to give the manufacturer time to address them. Chung told the AP that Eview was working to update the EV-07‘s webserver software, where Rapid7 found flaws that could allow user and geolocation data to be altered.

Activists have good reason to be wary of public officials in Colombia, where murder rates for land and labor activists are among the world‘s highest, and there is a legacy of state-sponsored crime. The DAS domestic intelligence agency, which provided bodyguards and armored vehicles to high-risk individuals prior to 2011, was disbanded after being caught spying on judges, journalists and activists. Five former DAS officials have been prosecuted for allegedly subjecting Duque and her daughter to psychological torture after she published articles implicating agency officials in the 1999 assassination of Jaime Garzon, a much-loved satirist.

Tanya O‘Carroll of Amnesty International, which has been developing a different kind of “panic button” since 2014 , said the Colombian model is fundamentally flawed. “In many cases, the government is the adversary,” she said. “How can those people who are the exact adversary be the ones that are best placed to respond?”…

In Mexico, the attorney general‘s office has issued more than 200 emergency alert devices to journalists and rights activists since 2013. But there have been multiple complaints . One is unreliability where cell service is poor. Others are more serious: Cases have been documented of police failing to respond or answering but saying they are unable to help.

O‘Carroll of Amnesty International said trials in 17 nations on three continents—including the Philippines, El Salvador and Uganda—show it‘s best to alert trusted parties—friends, family or colleagues. Those people then reach out to trusted authorities. Amnesty‘s app for Android phones is still in beta testing. It is activated with a hardware trigger—multiple taps of the power button. But there have been too many false alarms.

Sweden-based Civil Rights Defenders offers a 300-euro stand-alone panic button first deployed in Russia‘s North Caucasus region in 2013 and now used by more than 70 people in East Africa, Central Asia, the Balkans, Southeast Asia and Venezuela, said Peter Ohlm, a protection officer at the nonprofit. The organization‘s Stockholm headquarters always gets notified, and social media is typically leveraged to spread word fast when an activist is in trouble.

Colombia ‘panic buttons‘ expose activists

Today official launch of AI’s Panic Button – a new App to fight attack, kidnap and torture

June 23, 2014

Amnesty International launches new open source ‘Panic Button’ app to help activists facing imminent danger.

Today, 23 June 2014, Amnesty International launches its open source ‘Panic Button’ app to help human rights defenders facing imminent danger. The aim is to increase protection for those who face the threat of arrest, attack, kidnap and torture. In short:

Read the rest of this entry »

Mobile phone security for human rights defenders

May 7, 2014

mobilesecheader.png

Having posted on the Natalia bracelet and the Panic Button recently as alarm systems for human rights defenders in danger, it is good to also draw attention to the dangers that are inherent in the ‘normal’ use of mobile phones. Tactical Tech has quite a bit to say about  mobile phone security: Human Rights Defenders are exposed to many potential threats – from governments, private companies, organised groups – in the course of their work. Therefore, they should be aware of dangers and necessary security measures to be taken if  deciding to communicate by mobile phone, which remains an easy-to-spy-on device. Tactical Tech has produced a number of resources about phone security.

Security in a Box has a chapter entitled “How to Use Smartphones as Securely as Possible” and one on using mobile phonesas securely as possible.

Me and My Shadow has a chapter on geolocation services for smartphones and the risks they carry, as well as tips for those using SMS and MMS.

Finally, have a look at the Guardian Project’s website, created by a group of activists dedicated to creating open source apps to increase security and privacy on smartphones.

via Mobile phone security | Exposing the Invisible.

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/natalia-project/

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/05/02/amnesty-releases-today-long-awaited-panic-button-for-human-rights-defenders/

Amnesty releases today long-awaited ‘Panic Button’ for human rights defenders

May 2, 2014

Amnesty International is working with activists in 16 countries on how to use "Panic Button".

(AI is now working with HRDs in 16 countries on how to use “Panic Button”. © Amnesty International)

As this blog testifies, across the globe, individuals suspected of posing a threat to state authority are routinely kidnapped, arrested and forcibly disappeared, often without any warning.Amnesty international launches today the easy-to-use app launched by Amnesty International. “Panic Button”, a mobile app for Android, transforms a user’s smart phone into a secret alarm which can be activated rapidly in the event of an emergency, alerting fellow activists and enabling them to respond faster.

Defending human rights is an incredibly dangerous job in large parts of the world, with activists facing anything from threats to imprisonment and even torture as punishment for their legitimate work,” said Tanya O’Carroll, Technology and Human Rights Officer for Amnesty International. “By introducing technology to the fight for human rights ‘Panic Button’ is bringing them a new tool to alert others about the danger they may be facing with a simple click.”

AI is are currently working with HRDs in 16 countries on how to use the tool and on the growing and omnipresent threat of surveillance so they are clear on the risks they take when using a mobile phone in their work,but the official website for the “Panic Button” app is up and running.

[Amnesty International hopes that activists and members of the public will help to improve the tool by downloading and testing Panic Button in their country as part of the beta – or testing – phase. Authorities know that campaigners coordinate meetings, protests and other activities using mobile phones and have ramped up their surveillance capabilities to monitor and track activists, journalists and campaigners. In a bid to mitigate some of these dangers, the “Panic Button” tool uses a screen disguise feature and requires users to enter a pin number before accessing the application. The alarm itself is triggered by rapidly pressing the phone’s power button, after which an SMS message is sent to three pre-entered contacts chosen by the user, alerting them of the distress call. When a GPS function is enabled, this message includes a map link showing the user’s coordinates and the user can pre-set regular location updates so their network is updated every few minutes when active.]

via New ‘Panic Button’ app provides safety net to human rights activists | Amnesty International.

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/technology-to-protect-human-rights-defenders-great-but-should-there-not-be-more-cooperation/

Development of Amnesty’s Panic Button App

September 11, 2013

Having last week referred to 3 different (and competing?) techno initiatives to increase the security of HRDs, i would be amiss not to note the post of 11 september  2013 by Tanya O’Caroll on the AI blog concerning  the development of the Panic button. Over the next couple of months, she will be keeping you posted about the Panic Button. If you want to join the community of people working on Panic Button, please leave a comment on the site mentioned below or email panicbutton@amnesty.org.

via Inside the development of Amnesty’s new Panic Button App | Amnestys global human rights blog.

 

Technology to protect Human Rights Defenders: great but should there not be more cooperation??

September 5, 2013

On 7 April 2013 I posted on this blog the announcement of the Anti-kidnap alarm for human rights defenders in form of the Natalia bracelet launched in Stockholm by Civil Rights Defenders.

This was followed 10 days later, 17 April, by a post referring to the Panic Button developed by Amnesty International (“How to turn a mobile phone into an alert system for human rights defenders: AI’s Panic Button”).

Now the New York based Human Rights foundation announces its Partnership with global encrypted communications firm Silent Circle to protect the private communications of political dissidents, human rights groups, and civil society organizations in at-risk scenarios. (http://humanrightsfoundation.org/HRF-Announces-Silent-Circle-Partnership-to-Support-Dissidents-04-09-2013.php)

 

There exist already the older and more wide-ranging tools of:  “Security in a Box”  (a collaboration between Front Line and Tactical Tech Collective – see http://security.ngoinabox.org/welcome) and Protection International‘s  on-line Manual: http://protectioninternational.org/publication/new-protection-manual-for-human-rights-defenders-3rd-edition/.

 

While these (and perhaps other tools that I have missed!) may have all different features, the question could be asked who among the hard-pressed human rights defenders on the ground have the time and energy to sort through all this and pick what is most meaningful for them? Competition may well bring out the best but can also be confusing.

 

Vote for development of AI’s PANIC BUTTON

May 22, 2013

I reported earlier in this blog on the Panic Button idea of Amnesty International. Now I have learned that it has been chosen as a finalist in Google’s Global Impact Challenge for work on a mobile alert system that enables human rights activists to trigger rapid response from their network in an emergency. Four out of ten projects will win £500,000. Public voting is open until 31 May! You can watch the video and vote here: g.co/impactchallenge/amnesty

If AI wins this Challenge, the work could be scaled up substantially. Amnesty and partners would launch the mobile alert system and directly train and support activist networks globally to set-up and use the system safely as part of their security protocols. 

via Danna Ingleton, Research and Policy Adviser, Individuals at Risk.

 

How to turn a mobile phone into an alert system for human rights defenders: AI’s Panic Button

April 17, 2013

image of mobile phone

Last week I reported on the Natalia bracelet and yesterday my eye fell on a lengthy piece posted on Amnesty International‘s Livewire by Technology and Human Rights Project Officer Tanya O’Carroll. It describes how emerging digital tools will help activists and human rights defenders. http://livewire.amnesty.org/2013/04/15/how-to-turn-a-mobile-phone-into-an-alert-system-for-activists/.

As a student activist speaking out against the government, Hassan is at constant threat of being arrested. The Sudanese government tracks and harasses members of the student movement he belongs to. Reports of his friends and contacts being detained, tortured and even killed by the authorities are frighteningly regular. But Hassan’s network is also well organized. His phone is always on him and he uses it to help organize demonstrations, to record and disseminate video of violent crackdowns against the students and to keep his network updated every minute – a network that stretches from Khartoum to the rest of the globe in the time it takes to send a tweet. If he is able to get word out that he’s been arrested, Hassan knows that his network’s response will be swift and structured. The problem is that he knows the first thing the authorities will seize is his mobile phone. And here’s the double danger of not getting word out: the authorities will use the phone book, call log, messages and any open apps – such as G-Mail or Facebook – to identify and track others. Without knowledge of the arrest, the whole network will be easily compromised. Read the rest of this entry »