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November 02 2014

murdelta

Eleven countries studied, one inescapable conclusion – the drug laws don’t work


The UK government’s comparison of international drug laws, published on Wednesday, represents the first official recognition since the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act that there is no direct link between being “tough on drugs” and tackling the problem
Reposted fromdrugs drugs viabrightbyte brightbyte

September 16 2014

murdelta

Bürger retten statt Banken: 10.000 Euro für jeden Bürger



"Frisches Geld nutzt jenen am meisten, die es als Erstes bekommen. Diesen Effekt hat der irische Ökonom Richard Cantillon bereits im Jahre 1734 beschrieben. Zurzeit profitieren die Akteure an den Finanzmärkten und die Banken von dem Cantillon-Effekt: Sie können früher als andere Finanzassets nachfragen und auf diese Weise relativ risikolose Erträge erwirtschaften. Die Realwirtschaft profitiert davon jedenfalls nicht, wie wir beobachten können.

Wäre es nicht besser, stattdessen das frische Geld den Bürgern direkt zu geben?

Überschuldete Haushalte in den Krisenländern könnten das Geld zur Schuldentilgung verwenden; Haushalte ohne Schulden zu mehr Konsum. Die Wirkung für die Realwirtschaft wäre in jedem Fall positiv. Eine solche Überlegung ist nicht neu. Der australische Ökonom Steve Keen hat eine solche Idee schon vor einigen Jahren vorgetragen. Jetzt fordern es der amerikanische Professor Mark Blyth und der Hedgefondsmanager Eric Lonergan in einem Beitrag für Foreign Affairs. [...]

Über welche Beträge sprechen wir? Bei rund 330 Millionen Einwohnern in der Euro-Zone und einem angenommenen Quantitative Easing von drei Billionen Euro sind das immerhin fast 10.000 Euro pro Kopf. 'Undenkbar!' werden jetzt einige rufen, andere die fehlende 'soziale Komponente' bemängeln. Doch ist es wirklich gerechter, das Geld dem Finanzsektor zu geben?

Das eigentliche Risiko ist ein anderes: der Bevölkerung würde klar, dass in unserem Geldsystem Geld wahrlich 'aus dem Nichts' geschaffen werden kann. Das Vertrauen könnte schwinden und die Rufe nach einer Reform der Geldordnung lauter werden. Hierin liegt aber auch die entscheidende Chance wie die Diskussion in der Schweiz über die Einführung von Vollgeld eindrücklich unterstreicht."

manager-magazin.de
Reposted fromschwa schwa viae-gruppe e-gruppe

July 22 2014

ZEIT ONLINE: Sinn der Arbeit: Ich arbeite, also bin ich

von Patrick Spät

Wohl kein anderer Satz fällt auf einer Party so häufig wie dieser: “Und, was machst du so?” Dahinter steckt die unausgesprochene Frage: “Bist du nützlich?” Die Arbeit bestimmt unseren sozialen Stellenwert: Sag mir, was du arbeitest – und ich sag dir, wer du bist. Wir werden regelrecht nervös, wenn wir nicht den Beruf unseres Gegenübers erfahren.

Wer aber nichts “macht” und offen sagt, dass er keinen Bock hat zu arbeiten und dass mitnichten jede Arbeit besser ist als keine Arbeit, der steht im Generalverdacht, zu verloddern und andere dazu anzustiften, es gleichzutun – mit dem Endergebnis, dass die ganze fleißige Gesellschaft in den Abgrund stürzt. Das Mantra unserer Zeit: Ich arbeite, also bin ich.

Der Arbeitsfetisch hat sich tief in die DNA der westlichen Industrienationen eingeschrieben, von Kindesbeinen an wird er uns eingetrichtert. Am Kottbusser Tor in Berlin-Kreuzberg beobachtete ich einmal einen Vater mit seinem Kind. Die beiden gingen an einem Bettler vorbei – doch statt dem Bettler etwas zu geben, sagte der Vater drohend zu seinem kleinen Sohnemann: “Das passiert mit dir, wenn du nicht fleißig bist!”

Hm, vielleicht passiert das einfach, wenn der Reichtum ungleich verteilt ist? Und wenn man mit Lohnarbeit, sofern man einen der wenigen Jobs ergattert, kaum überleben kann. Martin Winterkorn, Vorstandsvorsitzender der Volkswagen AG, verdient 8.055 Euro Stundenlohn, und gleichzeitig sollen die Massen mit läppischen 8,50 Euro Mindestlohn abgespeist werden. Frohes Schaffen!

Die Politik gießt beständig Öl ins Feuer des Arbeitsfetisches: “Wer nicht arbeiten will, soll auch nicht essen” – mit diesen biblischen Worten des Apostel Paulus rechtfertigte der damalige SPD-Arbeitsminister Franz Müntefering das ultimative Instrument, um die vermeintlich Faulen zu drangsalieren: Hartz IV. Seitdem stimmen 47,3 Prozent der Deutschen der Aussage zu, dass die meisten Arbeitslosen kaum daran interessiert seien, einen Job zu finden.

Dabei ist die Sache mit der Arbeit extrem schizophren: Wir streben insgeheim nach Faulheit – und preisen lautstark die Arbeit. Kein Wahlplakat, auf dem nicht mit mehr Jobs geworben wird. Der Ruf nach mehr Arbeit ähnelt dem Stockholm-Syndrom, bei dem die Opfer von Geiselnahmen nach und nach ein positives Verhältnis zu ihren Entführern aufbauen. Ständig hören wir das Gefasel von “Wachstum”, “Wettbewerb” und “Standortsicherheit”, um uns einzureden, dass wir “Gürtel enger schnallen” müssten, weil nur so “sichere Arbeitsplätze” möglich seien – alles andere sei “alternativlos”. Eine Lohnerhöhung sei nicht drin, weil sonst die Firma pleitegehe. Wir dürften die Reichen nicht zu stark besteuern, weil sonst die Leistungsträger ins Ausland gingen. All diese Dinge werden Konsens – sogar bei den Lohnsklaven selbst. ...

Die Arbeit geht uns nicht deshalb aus, weil wir zu blöd sind. Sie geht uns auch deshalb nicht aus, weil die Vermögenden zu viel Steuern blechen, wie uns Neoliberale weismachen wollen. Die meisten Menschen werden über kurz oder lang keine Arbeit finden, weil über kurz der Kapitalismus kollabiert oder über lang Maschinen unsere Arbeitskraft ersetzen. Schon jetzt sind über eine Milliarde Menschen weltweit unterbeschäftigt oder ganz erwerbslos, Tendenz steigend.

Doch je knapper die Jobs weltweit werden, desto heftiger preisen wir die Arbeit, statt uns einen faulen Lenz zu machen. Wir könnten die durchschnittliche Arbeitszeit drastisch reduzieren, wenn wir nur wollten. Ein “Wachstum” ist ohnehin nicht mehr möglich. Was soll denn noch wachsen außer das Elend der Menschen? Lasst uns schrumpfen. Lasst uns den Arbeitsfetisch abschütteln und nicht an unsere Kinder weitergeben. Es grenzt an Folter, kleinen Kindern das Spielen und Entdecken zu verbieten, um sie stundenlang zum Arbeiten an den Schreibtisch zu fesseln. Statt unsere Kinder zu fragen, “Und, was willst du mal werden?”, sollten wir fragen, “Wer willst du mal werden? Was für Ziele und Träume hast du?”

Um es mit einem Zitat von John Lennon zu sagen: “Als ich fünf war, hat meine Mutter mir immer gesagt, dass es das Wichtigste im Leben sei, glücklich zu sein. Als ich in die Schule kam, baten sie mich aufzuschreiben, was ich später einmal werden möchte. Ich schrieb auf: glücklich. Sie sagten mir, ich hätte die Frage nicht richtig verstanden, und ich antwortete ihnen, dass sie das Leben nicht richtig verstanden hätten.”

Haben wir das Leben richtig verstanden?

Heute zwischen 14 und 16 Uhr ist der Autor Patrick Spät hier im Kommentarbereich mit dabei. Diskutieren Sie mit uns über seine Thesen: Ist Arbeit und Karriere zu einem Religionsersatz geworden? Entfremdet die moderne Arbeitswelt den Menschen von sich selbst? Wie könnte eine gerechtere Arbeitswelt aussehen? Wir freuen uns über rege Beteiligung!

(via Schohns / Aktion 23)

Reposted frombwana bwana viae-gruppe e-gruppe

February 11 2014

murdelta

11. Februar 2014: CryptoParty Graz



Lernen, wie man sicher online kommuniziert, und dabei den Spass und die Party nicht zu kurz kommen lassen? Darum geht es bei CryptoParties!

Themen:
  • Digitale Selbstverteidigung
  • Kurzeinführung: Verfolger abhängen beim Netzbrausen
  • Kurzeinführung: E-Mail Verschlüsselung mittels OpenPGP
  • Praxis: E-Mail Verschlüsselung mittels OpenPGP
Reposted fromteleschirm teleschirm

August 24 2013

murdelta

Lesen. Der Mensch der Manning an die

Federal Investigators verraten hat ist ein anderer Hacker der zwei Jahre lang mit ihm uebers Netz Kontakt gehalten hat. Das ist das Transcript seiner Aussage vor Gericht
Reposted fromastrid astrid

July 28 2013

murdelta

Piratenpartei: Offener Brief an Angela Merkel



Sehr geehrte Frau Bundeskanzlerin, sehr geehrte Bundesminister,

seit der Präsenz der Überwachungsskandale um PRISM und Tempora in den Medien wird der Öffentlichkeit bewusst, dass Sie und Ihre Bundesregierung Ihrer Pflicht, den Schutz der Grundrechte der Bürger im Sinne des Rechtsstaats zu garantieren, nicht nachgekommen sind. Sie haben durch Mitwissen oder durch schuldhaftes Nichtwissen zu deren Aushöhlung und zur Ausspähung der Privatsphäre aller Bürger beigetragen, die auf Ihren Schutz vertraut hatten.
Nicht nur gestatten Sie der NSA, in Wiesbaden ein neues »Consolidated Intelligence Center« zu errichten, sondern auch dem Innenminister 100 Millionen Euro dafür auszugeben, via BND die Internetüberwachung zu erhöhen. Das Ausspähen privater Daten aller Bürger ist in unserem Rechtsstaat nicht hinnehmbar. In der heutigen Informationsgesellschaft wird digitale Kommunikation zu einem immer größeren Teil des täglichen Lebens. Daher muss sie dem gleichen Schutz unterliegen wie die analoge Kommunikation.
Das Internet als »Neuland« zu bezeichnen, ist der Versuch, diese Vorgänge zu verharmlosen und zu verschleiern. Tatsächlich ist das Netz keine rein virtuelle Welt, sondern ein Medium, das Kommunikation im Alltag immens vereinfacht. So wie die Einführung des Buchdrucks, des Rundfunks oder der Post- und Telefonnetze ist auch das Internet ein wichtiges Instrument geworden, das weder eine Scheinwelt begründet noch eine Aufweichung der bestehenden Grundrechte und rechtsstaatlicher Prinzipien rechtfertigt.
Fester Bestandteil des demokratischen Rechtsstaatsprinzips ist nicht nur die Unschuldsvermutung, sondern auch der Schutz privater Kommunikation: Nur wenn diese frei von staatlichem Zugriff bleibt, ist freier politischer Diskurs überhaupt möglich. Menschen, die sich beobachtet fühlen, verhalten sich anders. Beispiele dafür gab es in der Weltgeschichte zur Genüge. Daraus nicht gelernt zu haben, ist ein Armutszeugnis. Staatliche Überwachung zu befürworten – auch etwa Vorratsdatenspeicherung oder das Bestandsdatengesetz – ist eine Schande.
Das wiederholt aufgeführte Argument »Terrorismus« ist als ständige Nebelkerze ausgebrannt. Wenn es Ihnen darum ginge, Menschen vor dem Tod zu bewahren, dann würden Sie sich stattdessen um deutsche Krankenhaushygiene kümmern (40.000 Tote/Jahr) und dann um die Sicherheit im Straßenverkehr (3000 Tote/Jahr). Die Überwachung des Internets hält
die tatsächlichen Terroristen in Deutschland nicht auf. Der NSU konnte jahrelang unbehelligt morden. Terroristen fällt es leicht, die Überwachungsmethoden zu umgehen. Somit trifft die Überwachung nur noch unschuldige Bürger, denen die ihnen zustehende Unschuldsvermutung und die Rechtsmittel versagt werden.
Unterdessen hat der Terrorismus jedoch sein wichtigstes Ziel erreicht: Angst zu schüren, da das Vertrauen in den Staat zerstört wurde. Dabei wird er unterstützt von Politikern wie Ihnen, die diese Angst instrumentalisieren, um weitere Überwachungsmaßnahmen zu etablieren. Die Bundesregierung wäre gut beraten gewesen, die Grundrechte zu stärken, statt abzubauen. Freiheit kann man nicht schützen, indem man sie abschafft.
Die von Ihnen gezeigte Empörung über die ausländischen Überwachungsprogramme ist ebenso unglaubwürdig wie Innenminister Friedrichs Amtsbesuch in Washington oder die freundliche Anfrage an die britische Regierung, die erwartungsgemäß mit einer ebenso freundlichen Ablehnung beantwortet wurde. Ein angeblicher Freund, der die Privatsphäre unserer Bürger mit allen technisch verfügbaren Mitteln ausspäht, ist kein Freund. Die Ablehnung des Asylantrags des Whistleblowers Edward Snowden setzt Ihrem menschenrechtlichen Versagen die Krone auf. Whistleblower benötigen besonderen Schutz, damit sie weiterhin Skandale aufdecken und Edward Snowden verdient für seine mutigen Enthüllungen höchste Auszeichnungen.
Sie als Bundesregierung haben gegen Ihre Pflicht, die Grundrechte zu schützen, massiv verstoßen. Jetzt gibt es nur noch eine dem Rechtsstaat angemessene Handlungsweise: Wir fordern Sie auf, die Öffentlichkeit umgehend darüber aufzuklären, inwiefern Sie als Bundesregierung im Vorfeld über die massiven Grundrechtsverstöße durch ausländische Überwachungsprogramme informiert waren. Beantworten Sie unverzüglich unsere 13 Fragen in vollem Umfang, machen Sie die Antworten für die Öffentlichkeit nachvollziehbar durch belastbare Beweise und beeidigte Zeugenaussagen und setzen Sie unseren 6-Punkte-Plan für ein freies Internet um.
Jede Abweichung davon wäre ein weiterer Verrat an unseren Grundrechten, die zu schützen Ihre Aufgabe ist.

piratenpartei.de
Reposted fromschwa schwa via02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

July 11 2013

murdelta

How Disney Ruined Sex For Everyone

Sehr guter Text ueber Sex
Reposted fromastrid astrid

April 16 2013

murdelta

April 06 2013

murdelta

Polizei erhält Zugriff auf Kameras der ASFINAG


orf.at schreibt am 04.04.2013:
Mit Videoüberwachung soll die Polizei in Zukunft Lenker, die die Rettungsgasse ignorieren oder widerrechtlich befahren, besser ausfindig machen und bestrafen können. Die Videos sollen von rund 800 schwenk- und zoombaren Kameras der ASFINAG geliefert werden, auf die die Polizei direkten Zugriff bekommen soll.

[...]

Mit einer Novelle der Straßenverkehrsordnung (StVO) will Bures die Polizei nun dazu ermächtigen, für Videoaufzeichnungen direkt auf die Kameras der ASFINAG zugreifen zu können. Die gesetzliche Grundlage sei dem Innenministerium, dem Datenschutzrat und dem Verfassungsdienst übermittelt worden, sagte Bures.

[...]
Reposted fromteleschirm teleschirm

April 03 2013

murdelta

Unique in the Crowd: The privacy bounds of human mobility


nature.com veröffentlicht am 25.03.2013:
We study fifteen months of human mobility data for one and a half million individuals and find that human mobility traces are highly unique. In fact, in a dataset where the location of an individual is specified hourly, and with a spatial resolution equal to that given by the carrier's antennas, four spatio-temporal points are enough to uniquely identify 95% of the individuals. We coarsen the data spatially and temporally to find a formula for the uniqueness of human mobility traces given their resolution and the available outside information. This formula shows that the uniqueness of mobility traces decays approximately as the 1/10 power of their resolution. Hence, even coarse datasets provide little anonymity. These findings represent fundamental constraints to an individual's privacy and have important implications for the design of frameworks and institutions dedicated to protect the privacy of individuals.
Reposted fromteleschirm teleschirm

March 19 2013

murdelta

The Internet is a surveillance state

I'm going to start with three data points.

One: Some of the Chinese military hackers who were implicated in a broad set of attacks against the U.S. government and corporations were identified because they accessed Facebook from the same network infrastructure they used to carry out their attacks.

Two: Hector Monsegur, one of the leaders of the LulzSac hacker movement, was identified and arrested last year by the FBI. Although he practiced good computer security and used an anonymous relay service to protect his identity, he slipped up.

And three: Paula Broadwell,who had an affair with CIA director David Petraeus, similarly took extensive precautions to hide her identity. She never logged in to her anonymous e-mail service from her home network. Instead, she used hotel and other public networks when she e-mailed him. The FBI correlated hotel registration data from several different hotels -- and hers was the common name.

The Internet is a surveillance state. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, and whether we like it or not, we're being tracked all the time. Google tracks us, both on its pages and on other pages it has access to. Facebook does the same; it even tracks non-Facebook users. Apple tracks us on our iPhones and iPads. One reporter used a tool called Collusion to track who was tracking him; 105 companies tracked his Internet use during one 36-hour period.

Increasingly, what we do on the Internet is being combined with other data about us. Unmasking Broadwell's identity involved correlating her Internet activity with her hotel stays. Everything we do now involves computers, and computers produce data as a natural by-product. Everything is now being saved and correlated, and many big-data companies make money by building up intimate profiles of our lives from a variety of sources.

Facebook, for example, correlates your online behavior with your purchasing habits offline. And there's more. There's location data from your cell phone, there's a record of your movements from closed-circuit TVs.

This is ubiquitous surveillance: All of us being watched, all the time, and that data being stored forever. This is what a surveillance state looks like, and it's efficient beyond the wildest dreams of George Orwell.

Sure, we can take measures to prevent this. We can limit what we search on Google from our iPhones, and instead use computer web browsers that allow us to delete cookies. We can use an alias on Facebook. We can turn our cell phones off and spend cash. But increasingly, none of it matters.

There are simply too many ways to be tracked. The Internet, e-mail, cell phones, web browsers, social networking sites, search engines: these have become necessities, and it's fanciful to expect people to simply refuse to use them just because they don't like the spying, especially since the full extent of such spying is deliberately hidden from us and there are few alternatives being marketed by companies that don't spy.

This isn't something the free market can fix. We consumers have no choice in the matter. All the major companies that provide us with Internet services are interested in tracking us. Visit a website and it will almost certainly know who you are; there are lots of ways to be tracked without cookies. Cellphone companies routinely undo the web's privacy protection. One experiment at Carnegie Mellon took real-time videos of students on campus and was able to identify one-third of them by comparing their photos with publicly available tagged Facebook photos.

Maintaining privacy on the Internet is nearly impossible. If you forget even once to enable your protections, or click on the wrong link, or type the wrong thing, and you've permanently attached your name to whatever anonymous service you're using. Monsegur slipped up once, and the FBI got him. If the director of the CIA can't maintain his privacy on the Internet, we've got no hope.

In today's world, governments and corporations are working together to keep things that way. Governments are happy to use the data corporations collect -- occasionally demanding that they collect more and save it longer -- to spy on us. And corporations are happy to buy data from governments. Together the powerful spy on the powerless, and they're not going to give up their positions of power, despite what the people want.

Fixing this requires strong government will, but they're just as punch-drunk on data as the corporations. Slap-on-the-wrist fines notwithstanding, no one is agitating for better privacy laws.

So, we're done. Welcome to a world where Google knows exactly what sort of porn you all like, and more about your interests than your spouse does. Welcome to a world where your cell phone company knows exactly where you are all the time. Welcome to the end of private conversations, because increasingly your conversations are conducted by e-mail, text, or social networking sites.

And welcome to a world where all of this, and everything else that you do or is done on a computer, is saved, correlated, studied, passed around from company to company without your knowledge or consent; and where the government accesses it at will without a warrant.

Welcome to an Internet without privacy, and we've ended up here with hardly a fight.

Reposted fromFreeminder23 Freeminder23

February 28 2013

murdelta

Soup.io on Flattr

Maybe we can't pay for the service, but we for sure can pay for their clubmate!
Show them love!
Reposted fromyetzt yetzt viamarihuana marihuana

February 12 2013

murdelta

SoupIO Downloader

Download your whole soup to your local harddrive in a simple way. 

Reposted fromfalk falk

January 19 2013

murdelta

December 26 2012

murdelta

November 16 2012

murdelta

The Hackers of Damascus

Taymour Karim didn’t crack under interrogation. His Syrian captors beat him with their fists, with their boots, with sticks, with chains, with the butts of their Kalashnikovs. They hit him so hard they broke two of his teeth and three of his ribs. They threatened to keep torturing him until he died. “I believed I would never see the sun again,” he recalls. But Karim, a 31-year-old doctor who had spent the previous months protesting against the government in Damascus, refused to give up the names of his friends.

It didn’t matter. His computer had already told all. “They knew everything about me,” he says. “The people I talked to, the plans, the dates, the stories of other people, every movement, every word I said through Skype. They even knew the password of my Skype account.” At one point during the interrogation, Karim was presented with a stack of more than 1,000 pages of printouts, data from his Skype chats and files his torturers had downloaded remotely using a malicious computer program to penetrate his hard drive. “My computer was arrested before me,” he says.

Photographs by Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images; Sana/AP Photo; Photo illustration by Joe Magee

Much has been written about the rebellion in Syria: the protests, the massacres, the car bombs, the house-to-house fighting. Tens of thousands have been killed since the war began in early 2011. But the struggle for the future of the country has also unfolded in another arena—on a battleground of Facebook (FB) pages and YouTube accounts, of hacks and counterhacks. Just as rival armies vie for air superiority, the two sides of the Syrian civil war have spent much of the last year and a half locked in a struggle to dominate the Internet. Pro-government hackers have penetrated opposition websites and broken into the computers of Reuters (TRI) and Al Jazeera to spread disinformation. On the other side, the hacktivist group Anonymous has infiltrated at least 12 Syrian government websites, including that of the Ministry of Defense, and released millions of stolen e-mails.

The Syrian conflict illustrates the extent to which the very tools that rebels in the Middle East have employed to organize and sustain their movements are now being used against them. It provides a glimpse of the future of warfare, in which computer viruses and hacking techniques can be as critical to weakening the enemy as bombs and bullets. Over the past three months, I made contact with and interviewed by phone and e-mail participants on both sides of the Syrian cyberwar. Their stories shed light on a largely hidden aspect of a conflict with no end in sight—and show how the Internet has become a weapon of war.

The cyberwar in Syria began with a feint. On Feb. 8, 2011, just as the Arab Spring was reaching a crescendo, the government in Damascus suddenly reversed a long-standing ban on websites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and the Arabic version of Wikipedia. It was an odd move for a regime known for heavy-handed censorship; before the uprising, police regularly arrested bloggers and raided Internet cafes. And it came at an odd time. Less than a month earlier demonstrators in Tunisia, organizing themselves using social networking services, forced their president to flee the country after 23 years in office. Protesters in Egypt used the same tools to stage protests that ultimately led to the end of Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. The outgoing regimes in both countries deployed riot police and thugs and tried desperately to block the websites and accounts affiliated with the revolutionaries. For a time, Egypt turned off the Internet altogether.

Syria, however, seemed to be taking the opposite tack. Just as protesters were casting about for the means with which to organize and broadcast their messages, the government appeared to be handing them the keys.

Dlshad Othman, a 25-year-old computer technician in Damascus, immediately grew suspicious of the regime’s motives. Young, Kurdish, and recently finished with his mandatory military service, Othman opposed President Bashar al-Assad. Working for an Internet service provider, he knew that Syria—like many other countries, including China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain—controlled its citizens’ access to the Web. The same technology the government used to censor websites allowed it to monitor Internet traffic and intercept communications. Popular services such as Facebook, Skype, Google Maps, and YouTube gave Syria’s revolutionaries capabilities that until a couple of decades ago would have been available only to the world’s most sophisticated militaries. But as long as Damascus controlled the Internet, they’d be using these tools under the eye of the government.

Shortly after the Syrian revolution began in March 2011, Othman’s political views cost him his job. He decided to dedicate himself full time to the opposition, joining the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression in Damascus to document violence against journalists in the country. He also began teaching his fellow activists ways to stay safe online. Othman instructed them how to encrypt e-mails and encouraged them to use tools like Tor software, which enables anonymous Web browsing by rerouting traffic through a series of distant servers. When Tor turned out to be too slow to live-stream protests or scenes of government attacks against civilians, Othman began purchasing accounts on virtual private networks (VPNs) and sharing them with his friends and contacts. A VPN is basically a tunnel inside the public Internet that allows users to communicate in a secure fashion. For a monthly fee, you can buy access to servers that create encrypted paths between computers; the VPN also disguises the identities and locations of your machine and others on the network. Spies can’t read e-mails sent via VPN, and they have a hard time figuring out where they came from.

Othman’s efforts worked at first, but very quickly Damascus blocked off-the-shelf VPNs and upgraded its Internet filters in ways that made the VPNs inoperative. By the summer of 2011, Othman had become frustrated with the Western VPN providers, which he felt were too slow to adapt to the government’s crackdowns. He bought space on outside servers, set up VPNs of his own, and began actively managing them to make sure safe connections remained available.

Othman was still training and equipping activists in October 2011 when he made a nearly fatal mistake. He gave an on-camera interview to a British journalist who was later arrested with the footage on his laptop. Warned by a friend through a Facebook message, Othman turned off his phone, removed its SIM card—a precaution to avoid being tracked—and hid in a friend’s Damascus apartment. He never went home. A month and a half later, at the urging of activists who worried his arrest would compromise their entire network, he escaped across the border to Lebanon. “I had been a source of safety for my friends,” he says. “I didn’t want to become a source of danger.”

The struggle for Syria has transcended borders. In early 2011, from his office at the University of California at Los Angeles, John Scott-Railton, a 29-year-old graduate student in Urban Planning, joined the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. Scott-Railton, working on a dissertation on how poor communities in Senegal were adapting to climate change, had spent time in Egypt and had close friends there. When revolutionaries in Cairo occupied Tahrir Square, he set his studies aside. Working through his contacts in the country, he helped Egyptians evade Internet censors and get their message out to the world by calling protesters on the phone, interviewing them, and publishing their views on Twitter. Later, when the Arab Spring spread to Libya, he did the same, this time working with Libyans in the diaspora to broaden his reach.

In Syria, Scott-Railton recognized that the task would be different. Once Assad’s government lifted restrictions on the Internet, activists were having little trouble getting their voices heard; graphic videos alleging government atrocities were lighting up Facebook and YouTube. The challenge would be keeping them safe. “If we’re going to talk about how important the Internet has been in the Arab Spring, we need to think about how it also brings a whole new set of vulnerabilities,” says Scott-Railton. “Otherwise, we’re going to be much too optimistic about what can be done.”

The first documented attack in the Syrian cyberwar took place in early May 2011, some two months after the start of the uprising. It was a clumsy one. Users who tried to access Facebook in Syria were presented with a fake security certificate that triggered a warning on most browsers. People who ignored it and logged in would be giving up their user name and password, and with them, their private messages and contacts.

In response, Scott-Railton began nurturing contacts in the Syrian opposition, people like Othman with wide networks of their own. “It wasn’t that different from the strategy I had worked out in Libya: Figure out who was trustworthy and then slowly build up,” he says. In the meantime, he contacted security teams at major American technology companies whom he could alert when an attack was detected. Scott-Railton declined to name specific companies but confirmed he was in touch with security experts at some of the biggest brand names. In the past year and a half, pro-government hackers have successfully targeted Facebook pages, YouTube accounts, and logins on Hotmail, Yahoo! (YHOO), Gmail, and Skype.

Scott-Railton’s involvement in the Syrian cyberwar wasn’t high-tech. Over several months, he set himself up as a bridge between two worlds, passing reports of hacking on to various companies who could investigate attacks on their users, take down bogus websites, and configure browsers to flag suspect sites as potential threats.

For Syrians, the system provided a quick, sure way to limit damage as attempts to break into accounts affiliated with the opposition became more sophisticated. For tech companies, it was an opportunity to address violations as they happened—though those violations have also exposed the vulnerabilities of some of the world’s most popular social networking services.

Facebook, which in 2011 responded to hacking attempts in Tunisia by routing communications through an encrypted server and asking users to identify friends when logging in, wouldn’t comment on what, if anything, the company is doing in Syria. Contacted by Bloomberg Businessweek, a spokesperson provided a statement saying: “Security is a top priority for Facebook and we devote significant resources to helping people protect their accounts and information, wherever they live and whatever the circumstances. … We will respond quickly to reports—whether from formal or informal channels—about worrying and problematic security threats from groups, organizations and, on occasion, from governments.”

As the war intensified, the cyberattacks waged by pro-government Syrian hackers became more ambitious. In the weeks before his arrest in December 2011, Karim, the young doctor, had begun to suspect his hard drive had been compromised. His Internet bill—which in Syria varies according to the traffic being used—had more than quadrupled, though he still isn’t sure exactly how his computer was infected. He suspects the malware may have been transmitted by a woman using the name Abeer who contacted him on Skype last autumn and sent him photos of herself. Another possibility is a man who sent Karim an Excel spreadsheet and said he could provide monetary support for the revolution.

In prison, Karim’s captors mentioned both people. His interrogators knew about his high Internet bills, as well: “The policeman told me, ‘Do you remember when you were talking to your friend and you told him you had something wrong and paid a lot of money? At that time we were taking information from your laptop.’ ”

Before the Syrian revolution, Karim had never participated in politics. “I would just go to work and then go home,” he says. But the Arab Spring awakened something inside him, and when demonstrators gathered for a second week of major demonstrations, Karim joined them. The first protest he attended was also the first in which the regime deployed the army to crush dissent, killing dozens of demonstrators across the country. Shortly afterward, Karim signed up to man field hospitals, caring for wounded activists. The worst injuries were from snipers, he recalls. “Sometimes people would be shot in the back, and they’d be paralyzed. Sometimes we found bullets in the face, and all the bones in the face were broken. When we found people shot in the abdomen, sometimes we couldn’t do anything because we didn’t have the proper equipment.”

When it came to the Internet, Karim was typical of many of his fellow activists: enthusiastic, naive, and all too often complacent where security was concerned. “Sometimes we’d say to each other, ‘If there was no Internet, there would be no revolution,’ ” he says.

Just 18 percent of Syrians use the Internet, and government restrictions along with sanctions by the U.S. and Europe have limited Syrians’ access to updated software and antivirus programs. Karim occasionally used the Tor application recommended by Othman but found the connection too slow for video. A friend in Qatar sent him a link to a secure VPN, but he wasn’t able to download the necessary software.

On Dec. 25, 2011, Karim met with a group of doctors to put the final touches on a plan to better coordinate the opposition’s field hospitals. The next day he spoke with a friend on Skype and agreed to meet him to film a Christmas video he hoped would be a show of unity between faiths. When he left his safe house, the police were waiting for him. They knew where they would find him and where he was going. “Skype was the best way for us, for communication,” he says. “We heard that Skype was very safe and that nobody can hack it, and there is no virus for Skype. But unfortunately, I was the first victim of it.”

In a statement to Bloomberg Businessweek, a spokesperson for Skype, which is owned by Microsoft (MSFT), said, “Much like other Internet communication tools with a very large user base—be it e-mail, IM, or Voip—Skype has been used by persons with malicious intent to trick or manipulate people into following nefarious links. … This is an ongoing, industrywide issue faced by all peer-to-peer software companies. Skype is committed to the safety and security of its users, and we are taking steps to help protect them.”

Karim spent 71 days in Syrian detention before being released on bail pending a military trial. After his release he fled the country, sneaking from village to village until he arrived in Jordan. There he discovered that many other activists had been contacted by the woman named Abeer. A few weeks after his release, he received a message from her on Facebook offering to send him more pictures. He refused.

In January 2012, less than a month after Karim’s arrest, Othman—by then in Lebanon—came across a laptop belonging to an international aid worker. The worker believed the laptop had been compromised. After making a preliminary analysis, Othman sent an image of the entire hard drive to Scott-Railton. Among the people Scott-Railton reached out to was a dreadlocked New Zealander named Morgan Marquis-Boire, a security engineer at Google (GOOG) in California. In his spare time, Marquis-Boire had begun investigating cyberattacks on opposition figures in the Middle East after being approached by activists who saw him speak at a conference. “I’m a firm believer in the facilitation of freedom of expression on the Internet,” he says. “The censorship that occurs when people are afraid to speak is actually the most powerful type of censorship that’s available.”

Marquis-Boire, 33, wasn’t the first person to analyze the infected hard drive, but his examination was deep and thorough. The laptop, he determined, had been successfully hacked three times in rapid succession. The first piece of malware had arrived on Dec. 26, 2011, during the early hours of Karim’s detention. It had been sent to the computer’s owner through Karim’s Skype account, embedded in the proposal for the coordination of field hospitals he had finalized the night before his arrest.

The malware, DarkComet, was a remote access “trojan.” It allowed its sender to take screenshots of the victim’s computer, monitor her through the video camera, and log what she typed. Every digital move the laptop’s owner made was being recorded—and the reports were being routed back to an IP address in Damascus.

The network Scott-Railton had set up was faced with a new challenge. The people behind the attacks were no longer casting a wide net and waiting to see who they caught. They were specifically targeting revolutionaries such as Karim and his contacts. Security experts at major tech companies can restore access to hacked accounts or issue takedown orders when hackers set up fake versions of their websites. But there’s little they can do for a user whose computer has been captured by hackers.

Photograph by Fabio Bucciarelli/AFP/Getty Images; Dave Caulkin/Getty Images; Photo illustration by Joe Magee

Scott-Railton and his collaborators began to study their opponent. Syrians like Othman with close contacts to the opposition began gathering suspicious files that might contain malware and funneling them to Scott-Railton. He passed them on to Marquis-Boire, who published his findings in blog posts for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an advocacy organization based in San Francisco that promotes civil liberties on the Internet. A pattern soon emerged. The attacks used code widely available online. In the case of the DarkComet trojan that had been sent from Karim’s computer, the malware had been developed by a French hacker in his twenties named Jean-Pierre Lesueur who offered it as a free download on his website.

What made the hacks so effective was their deviousness. Malware was discovered in a fake plan to help protesters besieged in the city of Aleppo; in a purported proposal for the formation of a post-revolution government; and on Web pages that claimed to show women being raped by Syrian soldiers.

Whenever possible, the people behind the attacks would use a compromised account to spread the malware further. In April 2012, the Facebook account of Burhan Ghalioun, then the head of the Syrian opposition, was taken over and used to encourage his more than 6,000 followers to install a trojan mocked up to look like a security patch for Facebook.

Scott-Railton’s network allowed antivirus companies to update their software so it would recognize the malware and warn Syrian activists. Once Marquis-Boire identified DarkComet, a group of hackers who went by the name Telecomix began putting pressure on its creator, Lesueur, to take it down. In February 2012, less than a month after the trojan had been discovered, he released a patch that would remove his program from an infected computer. “i was totally shocked to see that the syrian gouv used my tool to spy other people,” he wrote in a typo-laden post on his personal blog. “Since now 4 years i code DarkComet for people that are interested about security, people that wan’t to get an eye on what their childs doing on the internet, for getting an eye to notified employees, to administrate their own machines, for pen testing but NOT AS A WAR WEAPON.”

In July, Lesueur took the program down altogether. The weapon that had been launched from Karim’s computer—and very likely the one that landed him in jail—had been disarmed.

The cyberwar in Syria rages on. Othman and others like him spend hours fending off attacks on their VPNs. He says he knows of at least two activists who were detained and killed after their computers were undermined. Scott-Railton continues to relay reports of compromised accounts and fake Web pages to contacts in the tech industry. “Every day, I get contacted by Syrians with security concerns,” he says. Marquis-Boire is doing his best to trace the attacks back to their source.

Since Karim’s release from detention and his escape from Syria earlier this year, he has lived in Jordan. When he recently ran a scan on his new computer, he found he had been infected once again. “I receive thousands of e-mails, videos, and requests and images from activists and friends,” he says. “And there are a lot of people who I don’t know who they are.” In July the Syrian Electronic Army, a pro-government group, released what it said were 11,000 user names and passwords of “NATO supporters,” meaning members of the Syrian opposition.

In October, I attempted to contact the Syrians involved in the government’s cyberwar. Before doing so, I changed most of my passwords. I set up two-step verification on my Gmail account, an extra layer of security that makes it harder for hackers to take over an account remotely. I installed the Tor Browser Bundle and updated the WordPress software on my website. And then I dropped a line on Twitter to @Th3Pr0_SEA, an account that describes itself as belonging to the leader of the Special Operations Department of the Syrian Electronic Army, the most visible virtual actor on the government side. @Th3Pr0_SEA wrote back soon after, and we agreed to meet on Google Chat. Minutes later, somebody tried to reset the password of my Yahoo Mail account.

@Th3Pr0_SEA wouldn’t tell me much about himself. Two members of his organization had been kidnapped and murdered by members of the opposition, he said, after posting under their real names on Facebook. He told me he had been a student when the uprising began. When I asked his religion, he answered, “i’m Syrian :)”

Researchers have described the Syrian Electronic Army as a paramilitary-style group working in coordination with the country’s secret services and linked to the Syrian Computer Society, a government organization once headed by Assad himself before he became president. In our chat, @Th3Pr0_SEA denied the connection, repeating the group’s claims that it’s not an official entity and that its membership is unpaid, motivated only by patriotism. When I asked why the group’s website was hosted on servers owned by the Syrian Computer Society, he answered that his group paid for the service. “If we host our website outside of Syria servers, it will get deleted and probably hacked,” he wrote.

Before I finished my interview with @Th3Pr0_SEA, I asked him whether he had been the one who tried to reset my Yahoo password. He denied it. “i think someone saw you,” he said, “when you talked me on twitter.” He also told me, “there is a big surprise from Special Operations Department coming soon, but i can’t tell you anything about it.”

Reposted fromhannes hannes vialisa lisa
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October 06 2012

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August 21 2012

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August 15 2012

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