March 12, 2013
By Redac_MM
“My computer was shut down before me.” This is the clear observation of a Syrian activist arrested and tortured by the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Caught in the nets of online monitoring, Karim Taymour tells a reporter from Bloomberg [1] have been present during his interrogation a stack of more than 1000 pages detailing his conversations and electronic files exchanged on Skype. His executioners knew clearly much of it as they were found in his room, or rather his computer.

Online monitoring is a growing danger for journalists, bloggers, citizen journalists and human rights. In 2011, WikiLeaks made public the Spyfiles, documents showing the extent of the surveillance market and the financial burden it represents (over $ 5 billion), and the sophistication of the products offered.

Traditional surveillance has not disappeared. Police continue to roam near cafes Eritrea Vietnamese dissidents are followed and sometimes attacked by plainclothes police, cyber-dissident Hu Jia and his wife Zeng Jinyang have endured police permanently stationed at the bottom of their building for months. Bets on wiretapping journalists prying greatly facilitated the work of the intelligence services. But today, the possibilities offered by online monitoring widen the scope of possibilities for governments.

The 2013 edition of the report on the Internet Enemies discusses monitoring within the meaning of the monitoring activity designed to control dissent and the dissemination of sensitive information, an activity exploited to strengthen the powers in place and prevent potential destabilization.

On March 12, World Day against cyber censorship, an initial list of five “United Internet enemies” is made public. It lists the states involved in active surveillance, intrusive, actors information for serious violations of freedom of information and human rights. It is Syria, China, Iran, Bahrain and Vietnam.

A list of five “Companies enemy of the Internet” , otherwise known as “mercenaries of the digital age,” is also published. Gamma Trovicor, Hacking Team, and Blue Coat Amesys were selected for this survey is not exhaustive, known to lie in the coming months. Their products have been or are being used by the authorities for violations of human rights and freedom of information. At the moment when these companies began to trade with authoritarian regimes, they could not ignore the fact that their products could be used to monitor journalists, dissidents and netizens. When these digital surveillance products have been sold to an authoritarian regime through an intermediary, without the publisher not being informed, the inability of the latter to draw sales and exports its own software is indicative of the absence taken into account by these companies to the risk of misuse of their technologies and the vulnerability of human rights.

Surveys conducted by Bloomberg , the Wall Street Journal , and researchers Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto showed that surveillance technology used against dissidents and activists of human rights in countries such as Egypt, Bahrain and Libya from companies Western . Two types of products provided by companies are pinned in this report: the listening material on a large scale to monitor the network as a whole, spyware (spyware) and other devices to implement a targeted surveillance.

These spyware programs are used to spy on the contents of other disks, recover passwords, access the contents of electronic messages or eavesdrop on VOIP communication. They can be installed directly on computers or via the Internet through false up-to-day or attachments in e-mail without the user noticing. The civilian use of such programs is limited. Some manufacturers directly state actors such as intelligence and security services, while others do not hesitate to advertise their capacity to monitor and track political opponents. In authoritarian regimes, this system is used to spy on journalists and their sources to eradicate freedom of information.

Duplication can be done in some technologies used for legitimate fight against cybercrime, they become formidable tools for censorship and surveillance against human rights actors and information when they are used by authoritarian regimes. Lack of supervision of trade in these weapons digital ‘allows authoritarian governments to identify (people-) journalists to take them.

Reporters Without Borders calls for the establishment of export control technologies and monitoring equipment to countries that violate human rights. Such an approach can not be left to the private sector. The legislature must intervene. The European Union and the United States banned the export of surveillance technology to Iran and Syria. A commendable decision which can not remain an isolated act. European governments must adopt a harmonized approach to control the export of surveillance technology . The Obama administration has also adopt this type of legislation, such as the Global Online Freedom Act (GOFA).

Negotiations between governments had yet taken place, resulting in the arrangement of Wassennaar concluded in July 1996, which aims to promote “transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of arms and dual-use goods to prevent destabilizing accumulations. ” It now includes 40 countries including France, Germany, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Democracies seem to gradually give the lure of the required monitoring and cyber security at any price. Evidenced by the proliferation of projects and proposals potentially draconian laws, allowing the establishment of a general surveillance. FISAA CISPA and the United States, British Communications Data Bill UK, wetgeving STD control cybercrime in the Netherlands, many texts that sacrifice freedom of expression on the Internet on the altar of the fight against cybercrime (for more information, read the chapter “Overview of cybercensorship”). The adoption by regimes traditionally respectful of human rights of such draconian laws give arguments to the leaders of countries that adopt repressive legislative arsenal against critical voices.

This is the model of the Internet as conceived by its founders, exchange space and freedom, transcending borders, which is challenged by the acceleration of cyber-censorship and the trivialization of cyber-surveillance. Especially the Internet is the cost of power struggles between states. Widespread surveillance is one of the major players who are struggling to control the governance of the Net. At the World Conference on Telecommunications in Dubai in December 2012, China supported a proposal to drastically extend the control of ITU Internet . China had the support of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Sudan among others questioning the role of ICANN in the allocation of domain names and IP address ranges the protection of “physical security and operational networks,” the ‘ use of PGD in next generation networks [2] .

The equation is complicated for players information, caught between on the one hand the need for personal protection and security of their online sources, and secondly the need to collect and circulate information . The protection of sources is no longer only the ethics of journalists, it depends more on their mastery of their computer as noted cybersecurity expert Chris Soghoian in a editorial in the New York Times .

Before leaving the field, he is concerned about his physical security, war reporter armed himself with a helmet and a bulletproof vest. Similarly, any journalist should carry a ” survival kit digital “when it is stored or exchange sensitive information online, on your computer or on your mobile phone. This kit, developed gradually by Reporters Without Borders site WeFightCensorship , highlights the need to clean its metadata documents often too talkative , explains how to use the Tor network or virtual private network (VPN) to anonymize communication, provides Tips for secure communications and data on mobile devices etc. ..

Journalists and netizens need to better estimate the potential monitoring and the type of data or communications to protect to find the solution to their situation and, if possible easy to use. Faced with the sophistication of the means deployed by censors and intelligence, the ingenuity of players information and hacktivists who support each is put to the test. But after their tussle depends the future of freedom of information. A fight without bombs, without bars of prisons, bleached without inserts in newspapers, but a fight where if you do not take care, the enemies of truth and reality could impose absolute domination.

Photo by RobH (Own work) [ CC-BY-SA-3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

[1] Read the article ” Hackers in Damascus ”
[2] ITU summit in December 2012 in Dubai aimed to standardize norms and standards used on the Internet. One of the standards proposed for the conference was the widespread installation of Deep Packet Inspection technology . This type of technology is extremely intrusive because it provides access to the contents of emails exchanged intercept instant messages and access to the entire content accessed by a user on the Internet.