Doc film on surveillance seeks fund to film Syrian activist subjected to state surveillance

Charles Koppelman writes, "Zero Day (working title) is a documentary film being produced and directed by Charles Koppelman. BBC Storyville is co-producing and intends to air it. The film begins with the story of a single malware attack by the Assad regime in Syria using Skype as a platform. This targeted phishing attack used a Remote Access Tool (Xtreme RAT) to infect an activist’s computer. He was then tracked surreptitiously by security forces. He suffered very real physical consequences — detention, jail, and torture. His jailers showed him a file with hundreds of pages of email, web posts and surveillance reports on his movements. It is well-documented that he was the first Syrian activist to be attacked in the ongoing cyberwar conducted by the Assad regime. The Assad regime uses this same digital surveillance tool to compromise countless other activists and citizen journalists."

I spent the last several months attempting to contact the victim. Just this week, now safely out of the region, he finally reached out to me. That person (who must remain anonymous for the moment, to protect his family’s safety) tells an amazing story that will put a face on the consequences of state surveillance when the film comes out. This victim had to leave his wife and daughter behind on the Turkish border. He has not seen his three year-old daughter except for 2 weeks right after she was born.

A hard drive clone of an infected computer also belonging to an activist in Damascus was smuggled out of the region. The film follows the journey of that had drive and the worldwide community of investigators who analyzed its data and malware, and published warnings about it: Mikko Hyponen (F-Secure), Morgan Marquis-Boire (The Citizen Lab), Eva Galperin (Electronic Frontier Foundation), and Cyber Arabs (Institute for War and Peace Reporting) in Beirut.

The Syrian activist who suffered directly from cyber-surveillance is ready to go on-camera and tell me everything. I am hoping to obtain resources so he can travel to Europe from his base in California to film with the Syrian activist, add this material to his rough cut, and rush the film into distribution.

Koppelman's exhausted his budget; he is looking for donations to help him get to Europe to meet with this activist.

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