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This Company is Helping Middle East Governments Censor the Internet

Canadian software company, Netsweeper Inc., has added itself to a surprisingly long list of western software developers who are more than happy to sacrifice basic human rights in favour of a buck. According to Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, Netsweeper has had a hand in limiting the access of Arab Internet users.

The Canadian company has sold its software to Middle Eastern governments who are struggling to keep a lid on protests in their cities, and Netsweeper makes no effort to hide that fact. The company is unapologetic about their software, as well as how and where it is used.

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Changes to the Open Internet in Kazakhstan

The genius of the Internet has always been its open infrastructure, which allows anyone with a connection to communicate with anyone else on the network. It’s not limited by national boundaries, and it facilitates free expression, commerce and innovation in ways that we could never have imagined even 20 or 30 years ago.

Some governments, however, are attempting to create borders on the web without full consideration of the consequences their actions may have on their own citizens and the economy. Last month, the Kazakhstan Network Information Centre notified us of an order issued by the Ministry of Communications and Information in Kazakhstan that requires all .kz domain names, such as google.kz, to operate on physical servers within the borders of that country. This requirement means that Google would have to route all searches on google.kz to servers located inside Kazakhstan. (Currently, when users search on any of our domains, our systems automatically handle those requests the fastest way possible, regardless of national boundaries.)
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Governments fighting to stop the Arab Spring may be using Canadian software to censor the web

Authoritarian governments in the Middle East have been using software developed in Canada to block access to websites they find politically objectionable, says the head of an organization that studies human rights in the internet era.

Netsweeper Inc., a Canadian company that specializes in internet content filtering, is helping Middle Eastern governments limit access to information, according to Ron Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs.

Click here for the full article.

China linked to new breaches tied to RSA

Recent attacks on three U.S. defense contractors could be tied to cyberespionage campaigns waged from China, several security experts told CNET.

“The reality is, part of the basis of U.S. hegemony…has been the ability to leverage command of signals intelligence to have perspective on the motivations and activities of others. Cyberspace has equalized that, so all of a sudden we’re in a competitive intelligence environment,” said Rafal Rohozinski, a principal at SecDev who did research on targeted attacks on Tibet and others with supposed links to China. Those attacks were detailed in a “GhostNet” report in 2009.

“China has made no secret that they see cyberspace as the domain that allows them to compete with the U.S.,” Rohozinski said.

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Ukraine: Censoring Facebook?

To the dismay of the Ukrainian Facebook community, the account of one of the most popular Facebook users in the country, Mykola Sukhomlyn [new account], aka Николай СУХОМЛИН, was terminated by the social network on June 1, 2011.

On May 17, Mykola Sukhomlyn shared a YouTube video by journalist Oleksiy Matsuka showing Governor of the Donetsk region, Anatoly Blyzniuk, driving a customized S-class Mercedes worth at least 60,000 euro. His post got picked up [ru] by a popular online news source Ukrainska Pravda, which linked to Sukhomlyn’s profile, and was later referenced by dozens of other Internet sites. The next day Sukhomlyn received the first threat.

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‘BreachFest’ may sound funny, but expert says digital security has been a concern for years

Reacting to a report of yet another privacy breach at Sony on the heels of other hack attacks involving the personal information of customers at the Internet giants Google, Yahoo and others, cyber-security and digital media expert Ronald Deibert came up with the catchphrase.

“As a humorous aside, it dawned on me that it would be great to have a T-shirt made up, ‘BreachFest 2011,’ listing the breaches with tour dates on the back, you know,” said Deibert, director of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies and the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

“There’s a serious side to it all, though. We’ve been warning about this for years, and I think it’s now become apparent that the ecosystem that we communicate in has some serious problems globally. If you look at it using the metaphor of epidemiology, and you look at the rate at which we’ve gravitated to new modes of communicating and sharing of data reliant on cloud computing systems and mobile forms of connectivity, any epidemiologist looking at that eco-system would say we’d expect the equivalent of cyber disease. That’s effectively what’s happening.”

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PRI’s The World Interviews Ron Deibert on the Syrian Electronic Army

PRI’s The World spoke with Professor Ron Deibert about the emergence of the Syrian Electronic Army.

In Syria, one of the largest anti-government protests so far turned deadly today. In the city of Hama activists say security forces fired on demonstrators killing at least 34 people. Syria’s government also cut Internet service across most of the country, effectively blocking a key portal of protest. But it’s not just regime opponents who are mobilizing online, so are government supporters involved with something called the Syrian Electronic Army. It aims to thwart not just the protestors, but also their sympathizers in the West.

Click here for the audio.

Syrian Internet Shutdown and the Ongoing Militarization and Contestation of Cyberspace

Today, it was reported by Renesys that beginning at 3:35 UTC and in the course of an hour and a half, two-thirds of Syrian networks had become disconnected from the global Internet.

This latest Internet black out is an example of just-in-time blocking—a phenomenon in which access to content and information communication technologies are blocked in response to sensitive political situations when the technology and content may have the greatest potential impact. It is suspected that the severing of Syria’s Internet is in direct response to the intensification of revolts this week, sparked in part by the death and torture of 13 year old Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, as well as in memory of at least 50 other children killed during the protests. This action follows other MENA states severing access in reaction to protest on ground with Egypt shutting down national connectivity on January 28, 2011 and access blockages in Libya and Bahrain in February. For further analysis, see today’s OpenNet Initiative blogpost.

CBC Dispatches: The Syrian Electronic Army with Director Ron Deibert

On CBC Dispatches, Rick MacInnes-Rae interviews Ron Deibert, Director of the Citizen Lab in the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, about the way governments in the Middle East are using the internet to fight back against their opponents – and Canada’s role too.

Click here for interview.