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The Activists Who Bring Security To the Oppressed

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the fighting-the-good-fight dept.

Encryption 33

msm1267 writes "Tibetans inside China or in exile, along with Syrians, Iranians and other groups oppressed by autocratic regimes, rely on technology to communicate and organize protests. Yet state-sponsored attackers have infiltrated the devices and platforms used by the oppressed to put their freedom or lives in danger. Groups such as Tibet in Action or Citizen Lab Munk School of Global Affairs have put together resources to help educate and enhance the security of oppressed people."

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The lesson here... (4, Insightful)

rmdingler (1955220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43356281)

If you have a Smartphone with you can be tracked. If you have a Smartphone and enemies in high places, you will be tracked. Ironically, the cell phone is both a lifeline and a leash.

Re:The lesson here... (1)

NettiWelho (1147351) | about a year and a half ago | (#43356465)

If you have a Smartphone with you can be tracked. If you have a Smartphone and enemies in high places, you will be tracked. Ironically, the cell phone is both a lifeline and a leash.

If you have a Smartphone with you can be tracked. If you have a Smartphone and enemies in high places, you will be tracked. Ironically, the cell phone is both a lifeline and a leash.

If you have a Smartphone with you can be tracked.

I thought any kind of cellphone was vulnerable to being tracked while connected to a cellular network.

Re:The lesson here... (1)

NettiWelho (1147351) | about a year and a half ago | (#43356499)

Whoops massive quote fail. Please dont hit me.

Re:The lesson here... (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#43356589)

All cellphones are vulnerable to being tracked by parties with physical jurisdiction(your telco, for technical and billing reasons, in addition to any sinister motives/data mining/compliance with The Feds, other telcos with towers using sufficiently similar spectrum(unless they are supplying you with service as part of some roaming agreement you'd be less interesting, one presumes; but they could hear you if they wanted to), The Feds(whatever exactly they are doing with those 'Stingrays' that is so impeccably legal that they don't want to talk about it, at all...)), and all, or overwhelmingly close to all, cell modems are little black boxes whose behavior is largely invisible, so they are suspect on that count as well(yes, even on phones with 'Open Source Firmware', this just means that the cell modem is a black box that communicates with the OS in a polite and well-understood manner, generally one amusingly similar to an AT modem on a serial line, albeit with a bunch of command set extensions).

Smartphones however(and 'featurephones' complex enough to basically be smartphones with shitty 3rd party support) have the disadvantage of running enough fancy software, generally along with an internet connection, that an attacker without physical jurisdiction may well be able to pull off an attack purely in software by planting malware at the OS level. In addition to getting more interesting data than just rough location and calls made/received, this means that Country A can(with minimal risks of repercussions) bug a citizen of Country B.

That's the reason why smartphones, in particular, along with computers and webmail accounts and other network-vulnerable services, tend to be of concern to Tibet activists and other groups that rely substantially on expat populations for coordination/PR/etc.

It's no secret that Ma Bell will be happy to tell Uncle Sam all about you if your phone is inside the US; but it is much less likely that either party would cooperate with Chinese authorities who are looking to crack down on Tibetans or Ugurs or whoever it is these days. Software attacks, though, will work just fine.

Re:The lesson here... (2)

arielCo (995647) | about a year and a half ago | (#43356507)

If you have a *phone* you are, by definition, being tracked. Y'know, the phone has to register with the base station. In a city, cell radius goes down to maybe 25 m.

Tracking ID (5, Insightful)

Wowsers (1151731) | about a year and a half ago | (#43356305)

If you thought the Intel Pentium that displayed a users processor ID was bad, then you wait until the "Trusted Computing" platform is fully implemented on motherboards. Already manufacturers are colluding to make it very hard to find a modern (as in has USB3) motherboard without the TC garbage. Then there's Microsoft trying to lock down every desktop and laptop with "secure boot", to cripple Microsoft's "free" competition (still no squeels from the EU on that).

I hate mobile phones being locked down installing who knows what transmitting who knows what, now the manufacturers are trying to control the pc market too, makes it easier to track people.

Re:Tracking ID (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43356359)

Hows that tinfoil hat coming along?

Re:Tracking ID (1)

arielCo (995647) | about a year and a half ago | (#43356473)

If you thought the Intel Pentium that displayed a users processor ID was bad, then you wait until the "Trusted Computing" platform is fully implemented on motherboards. Already manufacturers are colluding to make it very hard to find a modern (as in has USB3) motherboard without the TC garbage. Then there's Microsoft trying to lock down every desktop and laptop with "secure boot", to cripple Microsoft's "free" competition (still no squeels from the EU on that).

What makes you think that the bad guys rely on something they announced like Trusted Computer? They could have implemented it in every chipset since ever and just not tell you.

I hate mobile phones being locked down installing who knows what transmitting who knows what, now the manufacturers are trying to control the pc market too, makes it easier to track people.

Newsflash: ANY mobile phone is, by definition, tracked. When you turn it on and every time you switch towers (which is every 50 meters or less in a city), the telco *has* to know your new location so you can get that call with the latest intel from your fellow fighters.

EU will make a big deal about app store only (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43356533)

EU will make a big deal about app store only if MS does that but enterprise use is to big to lock them out.

Re:Tracking ID (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year and a half ago | (#43356619)

The processor ID doesn't matter that much, because PCs are already swimming in unique identifiers. BIOS/motherboard serial, hard drive serial, MAC address, optical drive serial, memory module serials... if you've got software running on the target already, you can easily enough gain access to all of those. A processor ID doesn't enable any new attacks.

China, Syria, Iran... (4, Interesting)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43356405)

All these evil countries have 'activists' in jail. But the Americans? All of their prisoners are criminals..

The article is right about one thing, most of the attackers are state (and I would add corporate)-sponsored...

Another fine piece of propaganda there...

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43356647)

+4 Interesting?

Rather a tedious old trope: 'they have people in prison, and we have people in prison, so we are the same'.

Also:

Seriously China, there is no need for what you are doing in Tibet. Sure, you may feel that preventing secession is a goal. But that goal could have been reached with far more humane and reasonable means. You are using an iron boot to squash a bug. It makes you look ass-backwards and cruel.

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43357075)

Seriously US/EU, there is no need for what you are doing in Iran/Syria/Afghanistan/Iraq/Egypt/Libya/etc.. Sure, you may feel that preventing secession is a goal. But that goal could have been reached with far more humane and reasonable means. You are using an iron boot to squash a bug. It makes you look ass-backwards and cruel.

Consistency matters if you want to 'win hearts and minds'

You're welcome.

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (1)

cavreader (1903280) | about a year and a half ago | (#43358701)

Your are right. The US has no business involving itself in another country or region unless there is a clear and accurately defined threat against US interests. The bipolar governments in the middle east and south east Asia are already on a path towards their own destruction and do not need any outside help to keep the fires burning. Look into the near future and the conflict in Syria today will look like a pillow fight in comparision to what's coming. And no matter how many people ask for help of any type the US should decline involvement except for weapon sales and donations of nearly expired MRE's.

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43359943)

The US has no business involving itself in another country or region unless there is a clear and accurately defined threat against US interests.

Wrong, the US has no business spreading their interests outside of U.S. Soil and then "defend" them.

Like I'll come over and claim Kentucky as my "interest." Obviously, someone will be against that, but that's ok, since I can just nuke him/her, since they're threatening my interests, or what?! You nuts?!

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43361227)

...US interests

Which obviously trump US 'principles'. Actually they do need help destroying their own countries, and they're getting it, from the US/EU, Russia, and China. You'd be a little crazy too if the whole world were constantly attacking you, trying to install their favorite dictator on your turf to control global markets for your product.

And no matter how many people ask for help of any type the US should decline involvement except for weapon sales and donations of nearly expired MRE's.

Precisely the current situation. I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not.

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (1)

cavreader (1903280) | about a year and a half ago | (#43374095)

The US government's only mandate is protecting the interests of the US. Every thing else comes in a distant 2nd place. And as far as installing dictators you should understand that in order for US influence to have any effect requires the willing participation of the client governments. The US can certainly offer bribes and other inducements but there has to be a someone who agrees to accept money and favor to succumb to US pressures and policies. The US could do none of the things it is accused of without a willing partner. The US is always accused of stealing peoples natural resources even though huge sums of money have been paid for those resources. Just because the leaders of a country do not let that money trickle down to it's citizens is not the fault of the US. If you would argue that the US should be held resonsponsible for that you are advocating US interference in a foreign country are you not?

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43374217)

...requires the willing participation of the client governments.

Yeah right, tell that to the Chileans and Iranians, and take your pick of any Central American country. If they don't participate 'willingly', well, let's just say the US makes them an 'offer they can't refuse'.

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (1)

cavreader (1903280) | about a year and a half ago | (#43380703)

Both Chile and Iran had people that accepted the US bribes and promises to support US policy. The US is not so powerful that they can dictact to other countries. If Chile and Iran did not have people willing to accept the inducements US policy could be ignored. When people start aknowledging the both sides I might start to give a shit. And define the "make them an offer they can't refuse". What is your proof that this actually happens? There are a lot of countries that have very little or no diplomatic contact with the US and they survive. The US has taken "No" for an answer in the past and they didn't do anything drastic about it.

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43382013)

Both Chile and Iran had people that accepted the US bribes and promises to support US policy.

Yes, when you get an offer you can't refuse, that's usually how it goes.

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43364803)

You are using an iron boot to squash a bug. It makes you look ass-backwards and cruel.

Listen you fuckhead, those bloody redskins deserve every bullet to the noggin we gave them.
If you think us Americans are cruel, get the fuck out out of my country.
Oh sorry, I didn't notice you were criticizing the Chinks.

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43357269)

All these evil countries have 'activists' in jail. But the Americans? All of their prisoners are criminals.

It makes one wonder how many of the "democracy activists" in other countries' jails are really criminals, given how most of the "political prisoners" [thejerichomovement.com] in the United States are in jail for such things as shooting a cop, robbing a bank, or spying for Cuba, and every few years someone is "illegally" arrested for trying to burn down a county courthouse, which is reported as "protesting".

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43357435)

How convenient to ignore the victims of prohibition. Even some of those in your list are very questionable cases, and of course, we all know there's no such thing as self defense against abusive cops.

The article is more bullshit warmongering.

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43357775)

All these evil countries have 'activists' in jail. But the Americans? All of their prisoners are criminals..

The article is right about one thing, most of the attackers are state (and I would add corporate)-sponsored...

Another fine piece of propaganda there...

In America, being an activist get you a plea bargain where you can admit to being a felony with a recommended 6 months jail time, or face 35 years of prison worth of charges in court.

So, of course, all activists in jail are either self-admitted felon, or court convicted ones, i.e criminal.

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (1)

poity (465672) | about a year and a half ago | (#43360351)

Your naivete presumptions are easy to dismiss with a simple 5 minute task:

Look at what happens to ACLU lawyers in USA
Look at what happens to civil rights lawyers in China

Re:China, Syria, Iran... (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a year and a half ago | (#43361093)

Differences of a degree, nothing more, and does nothing to diminish the plight of political prisoners in the US. But all that is easy to dismiss because their attorneys aren't in jail also? The US still has a much higher number, percentage and in absolute terms, in its prisons. Who's being naive?

But now its on the internet! (1)

lemur3 (997863) | about a year and a half ago | (#43356415)

Hey!

it's another one of those stories... where its only news because it happened on the internet

Willy on Wheels is an actvist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43356537)

I was banned from Wikipedia for bringing reliable sources to make my willy notable.

We call the shots... on who is not "free" enough. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43356667)

It is ridiculous. We pinpoint Iran (we want their oil), Syria (because to their affiliation with Iran), China (it is always good to maintain the heat on your economic rivals).

What about Saudi Arabia? It is the only country that women cannot drive a car, cannot walk the streets without a male chaperone who is a relative, no elections, and so on. But Saudi Arabia is our ally in the oil business, so we simply bypass these inconvinient truths.

If Saudi Arabia is not on the shit list, then these attempts are our own government in-disguise trying to put pressure on selected rivals.

just to be clear here, (3, Interesting)

nimbius (983462) | about a year and a half ago | (#43356887)

we tacitly support chinese oppression through our international trade agreements, installed the ruling dictator in syria largely as part of the carter doctrine, and wag our fingers at Iran because of their drive to become a regional superpower that eschews american influence. the author categorically ignores all this and in the second paragraph whines about the intolerable restrictions on foreign nationals as they pertain to app stores for their smartphones.
strangely enough, theres also a pile of sympathy in the third paragraph for NGO's. at no point does the author acknowledge that an NGO's sole purpose in american history has always been to further western influence. NGO's are charged with things like the privatization of water and fragmentation of local health services in africa as well. They exist, funded by a foreign government in part, to engage in sidechannel diplomacy that often as in the case of oxfam and the liberty institute results in protests and revolution. foreign governments do quite well to limit or refuse them, Yet in the article the authors tunnel vision completely avoids CAIR, an NGO based in america, is routinely demonized and raided by american law enforcement.

Security in a Box (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43357877)

See also Security in a Box securityinabox.org/en [slashdot.org] from Tactical Tech.

The Syrian rebels ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43358339)

are now largely al Qaeda supporters. The US is arming them and training them, just like the did in Afghanistan in order to oust the Russians. What could possibly go wrong?

Freedom and oppression (1)

jandersen (462034) | about a year and a half ago | (#43366721)

All this hype about freedom is beginning to wear thin, I feel. I mean, I am as keen on people enjoying personal freedom as any, but like all other good things, it has been snatched up by those least worthy and turned into a prostitute concept, that means "whatever lines my pocket". In short, I find it helpful - nay mandatory - to maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when people envelop their message in "freedom".

Remember, one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist; and there is no such thing as perfect freedom. More freedom for one generally means less for somebody else.

So, is it a good thing that 'oppressed people' are better able to protect themselves? Well it depends on who your oppressed people are, doesn't it? Anybody who is subject to the unfavourable attention of the authorities would say that he/she is 'oppressed'; I have certainly never come across a criminal who wouldn't consider himself a basically decent guy who is being unreasonably targeted.

I think we need a good explanation why this or that particular group is 'good' or 'bad'; or rather, why they are less bad than their opponents. I don't think the picture is clear at all - certainly not as black and white as this article so smugly assumes. Yes, the Syrian regime is definitely bad, but are the rebels really any better? Do they represent all of the Syrian people? As the revolutions in other Arab nations have shown, the picture is a lot more complicated than that.

What is needed, I think, is fact-based, pragmatic thinking and a will to find practical, workable solutions; not lofty idealism.

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