Back in 2015, Canada's failing, doomed Conservative government introduced Bill C-51, a far-reaching mass surveillance bill that read like PATRIOT Act fanfic; Justin Trudeau, leader of what was then a minority opposition party, whipped his MPs to vote for it, allowing it to pass, and cynically admitting that he was only turning this into law because he didn't want to give the Conservatives a rhetorical stick to beat him with in the next election -- he promised that once he was Prime Minister, he'd fix it.
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Researchers from the University of Toronto's amazing Citizen Lab (previously) have published a new report detailing the latest tactics from the autocratic government of Ethiopia, "the world's first turnkey surveillance state" whose human rights abuses have been entirely enabled with software and expertise purchased on the open market, largely from companies in western countries like Finfisher and Hacking Team.
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In 2014, 43 students from Mexico's Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College went missing in Iguala, in the state of Guerrero: they had been detained by police, who turned them over to a criminal militia, who are presumed to have murdered them. Read the rest
The NSO Group is an Israeli firm that describes itself as a "cyber warfare" company, dealing exclusively to governments, including the famously corrupt and dysfunctional government of Mexico. The NSO Group is presently for sale, with a $1 billion pricetag. Read the rest
Journalism After Snowden: The Future of the Free Press in the Surveillance State is a new essay collection from Columbia Journalism Review Books with contributions from Ed Snowden, Alan Rusbridger (former editor-in-chief of The Guardian); Jill Abramson (former New York Times executive editor; Glenn Greenwald, Steve Coll (Dean of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism), Clay Shirky, Cass Sunstein, and Julia Angwin. Read the rest
Netsweeper is a litigious cyberarms dealer that threatened to sue the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab when its researchers outed the company for its work in helping Yemen's despotic regime censor the internet; later, the company dropped its lawsuit. Read the rest
Former Syrian National Council vice-president Nour Al-Ameer fled to Turkey after being arrested and tortured by the Assad regime -- that's when someone attempted to phish her and steal her identity with a fake Powerpoint attachment purporting to be about the crimes of the Assad regime. Read the rest
Netsweeper sells "internet filtering technology" -- a tool that spies on users' internet traffic and censors some of what they see -- that is used by governments to control their populations, including the government of Yemen, which uses it to block its citizens' access to material critical of its policies. Read the rest
Reporters and press freedom advocates from around the world have signed on to support Netzpolitik and condemn the German government's outrageous investigation.
A newly released Snowden leak jointly published by the CBC and The Intercept documents Canada's Communications Security Establishment's LEVITATION program, which spies on 15 million downloads from P2P, file lockers, and popular file distribution sites. Read the rest
The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP) has joined a private equity consortium that acquired the notorious Internet surveillance company BlueCoat, yoking teachers' retirement security to the fortunes of a company that has systematically assisted some of the world's most brutal dictatorships to censor and surveil their citizenry. Blue Coat has blood on its hands, people rounded up and tortured and even killed thanks to it and products like it, and it's a disgrace for teachers -- whose professional ethics embrace freedom, intellectual inquiry, and fairness -- to be part of the financial exit strategy for the people who founded and ran that company.
Ron Deibert and Sarah McKune from the University of Toronto's CitizenLab and Munk School of Global Affairs have written an op-ed in the Toronto Star, detailing some of BlueCoat's ethical unsuitablity, and the fact that the OTPP went into the transaction having been thoroughly briefed on what they were getting into.
If you'd like to read more about BlueCoat, check out CitizenLab's excellent report: "Mapping Global Censorship and Surveillance Tools."
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Now, a year later, Citizen Lab has released a new report, Planet Blue Coat: Mapping Global Censorship and Surveillance Tools. Using a combination of technical interrogation methods, our researchers scanned the Internet to look for signature evidence of Blue Coat products. While our investigation was not exhaustive and provided only a limited window of visibility into the deployment of such tools, what we were able to find raises serious concerns.
We uncovered 61 Blue Coat ProxySG and 316 Blue Coat PacketShaper devices, which are designed to filter online content and inspect and control network traffic.
Robin Gross from IP Justice sez, "Public interest groups involved in ICANN will gather for the event, 'ICANN & Internet Governance: Security & Freedom in a Connected World' on Friday 12 October at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto, Canada. Sponsored by the Noncommercial Users Constituency (NCUC), the voice of civil society in ICANN, the policy conference will focus on key ICANN policy issues like the need to promote both cyber-security and human rights in the development of global Internet policies. The event kicks-off with a morning address from cyber-security expert Ron Deibert, Director of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies and The Citizen Lab, an inter-disciplinary research and development hothouse at the University of Toronto. Deibert will address the need to establish a cyber-security strategy for global civil society."
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NCUC's policy conference will discuss the promotion of cyber-security and human rights on the Internet, multi-stakeholderism and the role of governments, and key policy issues surrounding new top-level domains such as freedom of expression and intellectual property rights. The conference subtitle "Security & Freedom in a Connected World" recognizes society's shared twin goals of security and freedom, and questions to what extent must society sacrifice one for the other.
Cyber-security expert Ron Deibert from The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto will address the conference in the morning and ICANN's new CEO Fadi Chehade will deliver welcoming remarks to the group right after lunch. Other confirmed speakers include governmental representatives, members of ICANN's board of directors and senior staff, civil society and Internet business leaders.
JZ sez, "The OpenNet Initiative, a joint effort of U. Toronto's Citizen Lab and Harvard's Berkman Center, tracks Internet filtering by governments around the world. We published a book detailing such filtering in 2008 called Access Denied, and the sequel is about to come out, called Access Controlled.
ONI colleagues Ron Deibert and Rafal Rohozinksi were at the Internet Governance Forum today in Egypt, where they hosted a reception about Access Controlled. It featured a poster describing the book. The poster contained the following sentence:
The first generation of Internet controls consisted largely of building firewalls at key Internet gateways; China's famous 'Great Firewall of China' is one of the first national Internet filtering systems.
That was apparently enough to trigger concerns on behalf of the Chinese government, and UN-liveried security guards knocked over the poster and then later removed it."
IGF 2009 event rattled by UN Security Office
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Ron Deibert of the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab says,
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The first Information Warfare Monitor/ONI Asia major investigative report has been released -- Breaching Trust: An analysis of surveillance and security practices on China's TOM-Skype platform, written by Nart Villeneuve, Psiphon Fellow, the Citizen Lab, at the Munk Centre for International Studies, the University of Toronto.
John Markoff of the New York Times has just released a story about the report: Surveillance of Skype Messages Found in China.
Major Findings of this report are as follows:
* The full text chat messages of TOM-Skype users, along with Skype users who have communicated with TOM-Skype users, are regularly scanned for sensitive keywords, and if present, the resulting data are uploaded and stored on servers in China.
* These text messages, along with millions of records containing personal information, are stored on insecure publicly-accessible web servers together with the encryption key required to decrypt the data.
* The captured messages contain specific keywords relating to sensitive political topics such as Taiwan independence, the Falun Gong, and political opposition to the Communist Party of China.
* Our analysis suggests that the surveillance is not solely keyword-driven. Many of the captured messages contain words that are too common for extensive logging, suggesting that there may be criteria, such as specific usernames, that determine whether messages are captured by the system.
As my colleague Rafal Rohozinski and I say in the foreword to the report, "If there was any doubt that your electronic communications -- even secure chat -- can leave a trace, Breaching Trust will put that case to rest.