Thursday, December 22, 2011

SOPA,MAFIAA Fire, Mobile Phones and more

Lots has been happening on Internet access and censorship in the last few months.

Western/Northern governments have been praising the attributes of social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, in the last few months as northern African and Middle Eastern goovernments topple and fall.

These very governments tacitly support the efforts of organisations and activist groups, such as the Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), Anonymous etc in their work to set up proxy networks which allow users in "non-democratic regimes" to read Western/Northern "propaganda" websites.

The efforts of EFF through its promotion of Tor, Privoxy etc have been admirable in the extreme. The latest offering is MAFIAA Fire which allows you to connect to any Internet site anonymously and automatically via proxies. It avoids the configuration difficulties of the Tor/Privoxy solution but has the disadvantage that you cannot choose your proxy. The immediate impact of this is that I cannot select a country-specific proxy, for example a UK proxy allowing me to view BBC programming via the BBC iPlayer (see previous posts) ... but I see problems here. A repressive regime, China or Syria or Israel, can set up a proxy server (or many) and MAFIAA Fire selects it randomly ... is MAFFIA Fire selecting its proxies randomly Or is it filtering which countries, ISPs etc are legitimate for hosting proxies - in which case which countries and which ISPs?

The very same networking sites are being used by activists in the cities of the Americas and Europe in the current Occupy Wall Street protests, in the UK to avoid police kettling strategies (Sukey), by international relief organisations in natural disasters (Ushahidi).

As the police and other other security agencies across the world, from Western/Northern governments to those "repressive" regimes the former express the wish to do away with the latter, all are increasingly dependent on gathering intelligence from social networks as their own "secure" communications networks are failing ... we learn that the UK police network's whistle-and-bells new VHF radio system failed dismally during the recent disturbances and individual police officers had to use their personal mobile phones ,,,

"Among the failings highlighted by the [Police] federation, which represents 136,000 officers, were chronic problems, particularly in London with the hi-tech digital Airwave radio network. Its failings were one reason why officers were "always approximately half an hour behind the rioters". This partly explained, it said, why officers kept arriving at areas from where the disorder had moved on.

The Airwave network was supposed to improve the way emergency services in London responded to a crisis after damning criticism for communication failures following the 7 July bombings in 2005.

It is being relied upon to ensure that police officers will be able to communicate with each other from anywhere in Britain when the Olympics come to London next summer. The federation wants a review into why the multibillion-pound system collapsed, leaving officers to rely on their own phones.

"Officers on the ground and in command resorted, in the majority, to the use of personal mobile phones to co-ordinate a response," says the report.

Ironic that during the July 2005 London Underground terrorist attacks large sections of the London mobile telephone network were shut down.

As Alex saays "And it's the UK, for fuck's sake. We do radio."

At the same the Western/Northern governments want to curb internet freedom, under entertainment (film, music, sex etc) industry (RIAA and MPAA to name just two of hundreds) pressure.

So the Western/Northern governments seem to be in a Catch 22 and cannot resolve it.

The latest is this ...

"The New America Foundation's Open Network Technology Initiative, a US State Department-funded project to build an "Internet in a suitcase" that can be dropped into repressive zones where protesters need network access and the state is trying to take it away. The project -- a very complex piece of technology -- has gotten to the point where it needs a live test, and lucky for the Open Technology engineers, Occupy DC is just down the street, and that's a great testbed.

The idea is that the system will automatically set itself up. Drop a unit near another unit and they’ll start talking to one another and trading data. Add another and all three will talk to one another. Add a thousand and you can cover a whole city. Then if one of those routers is hooked up to an internet connection, everyone on the network can connect. If that connection disappears, users can still try to update an application like Twitter or send e-mail to the larger internet and the outgoing notes will go into a holding pattern until the mesh network finds another connection to the greater net.

That’s harder to pull off in practice, even under ideal conditions — as anyone who’s tried to link even two Wi-Fi access points in their own home could attest. Now throw in the variables that the access points should work in urban and exposed environments, as well as protest zones like Tahir Square. You’ll want to protect dissidents with encryption and deniability. And you don’t want your beta-testers to be arrested or even killed because of a software bug. All together it’s the kind of challenge engineers like to call “non-trivial”.

“Finding a place to use the system is difficult,” Meinrath said. “Thank God for the Occupy movement.”

So the USG  is using its democratically legitimate Occupy Wall St movement which it diametrically opposes to testdrive cyberweapons it can use against countries/regimes it opposes? And if I am in Egypt, Syria, China, I can then bittorrent download what the fuck I like ...

... but hang on wasn't the US just getting heavy with China about "intellectual piracy"?

Oh and I forgot the Stuxnet virus...! Backfire!

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