Showing posts with label social networks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social networks. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Recommended: Internet Use in Ukraine's Orange Revolution

Researchers Volodymyr Lysenko and Kevin Desouza have published an analysis of the effect and use of technology in Ukraine's Orange Revolution. The report provides an extensive review of the development of Internet and telecommunication based methods to disseminate information and organize political opposition.

Interestingly, the report discusses the fact that the free-flow of information can have a multiplying effect even when only a small portion of the population has direct access to the Internet:
"In the case of Ukraine we observed that, due to the two–step nature of the information communication process, the provision of alternative information to even a relatively small number of dissenters was apparently sufficient to initiate a network–related effect, when the information spreads exponentially, like an epidemic. We can therefore conclude that the Internet does not need to have a mass penetration rate in order to effectively help in the promotion of a major socio–political change. "
The authors go on to discuss some of the attributes required for successful online opposition:
"[An] important finding was the necessity of locating the oppositional Web sites beyond the reach of the repressive authorities by hosting them on servers located in strong democratic countries. Moreover, in order to protect them relatively robustly from the cyberattacks initiated by authoritarian regimes, the servers should be situated in countries with relatively strong technical defenses and a highly ramified Internet network..."
"Additional strength is achievable by the creation of several mirror sites situated at different servers in physically different parts of the Internet. It is also essential that the national Internet domain name registrars remain free from control by the non–democratic authorities to prevent the authorities from suspending registration of the oppositional Internet resources and thus switching them off."
The report also discusses how both traditional media (television, print and radio) as well as online information sources were used by both sides in the conflict to control messages, counter-messages and disinformation.

Overall, this report is an excellent analysis and case study of Internet based protest and opposition.

Role of Internet–based information flows and technologies in electoral revolutions: The case of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution

Friday, March 12, 2010

Increasing Use of the Internet by Terrorist Groups

The LA Times reports on the extensive and effective use of the Internet by traditional terrorist organizations:
"From charismatic clerics who spout hate online, to thousands of extremist websites, chat rooms and social networking pages that raise money and spread radical propaganda, the Internet has become a crucial front in the ever-shifting war on terrorism."
The article also discusses using the Internet for terrorist training activities:
"The new militancy is driven by the Web," agreed Fawaz A. Gerges, a terrorism expert at the London School of Economics. "The terror training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan are being replaced by virtual camps on the Web."

Internet making it easier to become a terrorist

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Report: Internet Controls Violate Human Rights

The U.S. Department of State's 2009 Human Rights Report highlights Internet censorship as a major human rights concern. The report's introduction included cyber monitoring and controls resulting in privacy violations and censorship:
"2009 also was a year in which more people gained greater access than ever before to more information about human rights through the Internet, cell phones, and other forms of connective technologies. Yet at the same time it was a year in which governments spent more time, money, and attention finding regulatory and technical means to curtail freedom of expression on the Internet and the flow of critical information and to infringe on the personal privacy rights of those who used these rapidly evolving technologies."
Most notable in the report were China and Iran:
"The government of China increased its efforts to monitor Internet use, control content, restrict information, block access to foreign and domestic Web sites, encourage self-censorship, and punish those who violated regulations. The government employed thousands of persons at the national, provincial, and local levels to monitor electronic communication ... The government at times blocked access to selected sites operated by major foreign news outlets, health organizations, foreign governments, educational institutions, and social networking sites, as well as search engines, that allow rapid communication or organization of users... The government also automatically censored e-mail and Web chats based on an ever-changing list of sensitive key words."
The report also notes that government interference is not always effective:
"Despite official monitoring and censorship, dissidents and political activists continued to use the Internet to advocate and call attention to political causes such as prisoner advocacy, political reform, ethnic discrimination, corruption, and foreign policy concerns."
The report cites Iran for cracking down on Internet access in the run-up to the June presidential election:
"...the government blocked access to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites. After the June election, there was a major drop in bandwidth, which experts posited the government caused to prevent activists involved in the protests from accessing the Internet and uploading large video files."
Receiving honorable mentions were North Korea because:
"Internet access was limited to high-ranking officials and other elites..."
and Vietnam where:
"Bloggers were detained and arrested under vague national security provisions for criticizing the government and were prohibited from posting material the government saw as sensitive or critical. The government also monitored e-mail and regulated or suppressed Internet content, such as Facebook and other Web sites operated by overseas Vietnamese political groups."

2009 Human Rights Report: Introduction

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Importance of the Internet for Opposition Groups in Iran

Like many modern political opposition groups, Iranian protesters make extensive use of social networks and other Internet services to plan and coordinate protest activity:
"The opposition, which relies on the Web and cell phone service to organize rallies and get its message out, has vowed to hold rallies Monday, the first anti-government show of force in a month."
Likewise, governments may target these communications as a means to limit protests. Reports are alleging the Iranian Government is restricting Internet and mobile phone services to limit opposition communications prior to planned protests:

"Internet connections in the capital, Tehran, have been slow or completely down since Saturday. Blocking Internet access and cell phone 'service has been one of the routine methods employed by the authorities to undermine the opposition in recent months.

"The government has not publicly acknowledged it is behind the outages, but Iran's Internet service providers say the problem is not on their end and is not a technical glitch. A day or two after the demonstrations, cell phone and Internet service is restored."

Iran slows Internet access before student protests

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Intercept Modernisation Programme to Include Social Networks

Following the implementation of the EU Data Retention Directive requiring member states to retain communication traffic information for law enforcement, the U.K. developed the "Intercept Modernisation Programme".
"The Home Office already has plans to log details of all phone calls, emails and websites visited by web users in the UK, as part of a grander scheme, a massive "mother of all databases" under the "Intercept Modernisation Programme" umbrella."
The Home Office is now looking at expanding beyond the EU Directive to include communications between users of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter:
"The Home Office minister Vernon Coaker told MPs that the fact that the EU Data Retention Directive lacks some features is "why the Government is looking at what we should do about the intercept modernisation programme because there are certain aspects of communications which are not covered by the directive."
This, of course, is stirring a significant debate on civil liberties. However, when investigating large-scale crimes involving the Internet (and especially international activity), traffic analysis of communications is probably the single best investigative tool available and this is one of the arguments put forth by proponents of the activity:
"The government said that it will not be interested in what is being discussed but rather who talks to whom online, something that the government says is vital in preventing criminals and terrorists' communicating facilities."

As an aside:

The keywords "Intercept Modernisation Programme" generates more traffic to this blog than any other so I'm always interested in performing traffic analysis on the spike after an article on the subject is posted. Historically, over 80% of traffic can be traced to U.K. defense or other governmental contractors.

UK Government Plans To Monitor Social Networking Websites

Social network sites 'monitored'

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cat and Mouse: Social Networks Help Protesters and Police

In a classic study of the power of online communications, social networking sites such as Twitter will be used both by protesters of the G20 meeting in London and by law enforcement to monitor the protesters:

"Marina Pepper, one of the organizers of G20 Meltdown, said that Twitter, the blogging tool that allows short updates to be filed, published and read via cellphones, would be used to coordinate the protests -- and warn participants of possible trouble.

"In terms of mobilizing people and shifting them around, Twitter will be used next week," Pepper told CNN. "We can also keep people empowered, because information is power."

"But Commander Simon O'Brien, one of the senior officers involved in policing security around the G20, said social networking sites would also be a "key area of our intelligence gathering."

"That's where we are picking up a lot of our intelligence about numbers and what certain groups are aiming to achieve," O'Brien said."

Protesters, police go online in G20 battle

Friday, March 13, 2009

Religious Cyber Wars on Facebook

TG Daily is reporting on an ongoing conflict on Facebook between a Christian group and Islamic supporters.
"The attack appears to be ongoing as the group's image has been changed, and the group's Basic Info section has also been changed to carry several paragraphs which claim to report on the foundation of Islam, including the first principle declaration in two parts, and several passages relating to the deity Allah and his prophet/servant/apostle Muhammad."
The article not only provides a chronology of activity but provides some of the religious history behind some of the postings.

UPDATE #3: Religious hack attack against Christianity seen on Facebook

Friday, March 06, 2009

Recommended Reading: Internet Radicalization by Extremists in Southeast Asia

Most of the time, media and research reports on terrorism, technology and politically motivated computer crime are shallow, to say the least. However, once in a while, a research report surfaces that actually has both the breadth and depth of research to increase our understanding of the phenomena and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in conjunction with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University have just compiled such a report.

Titled "Countering internet radicalisation in Southeast Asia", it looks at terrorist interactions with the Internet in Southeast Asia:
"Although there is a growing body of research on terrorists’ use of the internet in Europe, the Middle East and North America , less attention has been given to the role of the internet in online radicalisation in Southeast Asia and how it affects neighbouring countries, such as Australia."
The paper's forward states the primary area of research - the use of social networks in radicalization:
"Although the internet has become an important tool for tactical operations such as bombings, psychological warfare and fundraising, the focus in this paper is on its use as a tool to radicalise potential supporters.

"This study found that the internet has contributed to radicalisation, will probably grow in regional significance, and might become the dominant factor in radicalisation in the region. And it’s not just passive websites that are important in this context: social networking sites of all kinds, such as blogs and forums, are evolving rapidly.

"This paper discusses several policy approaches to counter the use of the internet for radicalisation in our region. These include blocking sites, creating counternarrative websites to promote tolerance, and intelligence-led methods to tackle the problem."
The study is filled with analysis and case studies. Some of the key points and trends include:
  • The number, technical sophistication and variety of extremist blogs and social networks is increasing and "create a stable network among members of the Bahasa and Malay language online community". Extremist websites increased from 15 in 2007 to 117 in 2008;

  • Blogs and social networks allow localization of radical messages. "Translated materials were once the staple of the Bahasa and Malay language extremist websites, but their online media units are now increasingly producing their own materials to better resonate with the home audience.";

  • While there are several strategies for combating online radicalization, "regional governments and national law enforcement agencies have done little to stop the rise of online radicalisation."
The report provides three broad policies to counter Internet radicalization and discusses the pros and cons of each:
  1. Zero tolerance - where governments ban and block websites, censor Internet traffic, etc.;
  2. Counter messaging - to educate potential recruits and provide alternate points of view;
  3. Intelligence based strategies - "leading to targeting, investigation, disruption and arrest."
Highly recommended reading.

Countering internet radicalisation in Southeast Asia

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Social Networks Limit Undercover Work

Yet another "security" issue with social networks - intelligence agency recruitment:

"Herein lies the problem: if you're planning on having a second identity for undercover work, it doesn't help if your photos, friends and real name are splattered all over various social networking sites. Try finding a student at a university who hasn't done just that.

"The UK's intelligence agencies are worried. From schoolchildren on Bebo, through Facebook-obsessed young professionals, to well-networked CEOs on LinkedIn, having an online presence is a must in this day and age. But with the explosion of social networking sites, it has become virtually impossible to find recruits who don't have some sort of an online trail."

I would expect this to be a similar problem for law enforcement...

Social networking websites make recruiting spies difficult

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Egyptian Use of Socal Networks for Protest

Last week, I posted on how Saudis were using social networking sites to protest when physical protests were limited. The New York Times ran a lengthy report on the same phenomenon in Egypt:
"Freedom of speech and the right to assemble are limited in Egypt, which since 1981 has been ruled by Mubarak’s National Democratic Party under a permanent state-of-emergency law. An estimated 18,000 Egyptians are imprisoned under the law, which allows the police to arrest people without charges, allows the government to ban political organizations and makes it illegal for more than five people to gather without a license from the government. Newspapers are monitored by the Ministry of Information and generally refrain from directly criticizing Mubarak. And so for young people in Egypt, Facebook, which allows users to speak freely to one another and encourages them to form groups, is irresistible as a platform not only for social interaction but also for dissent."
The article discusses how social networks (Facebook in particular) and blogging was used to protest and discuss various aspects of the Gaza conflict:
"In most countries in the Arab world, Facebook is now one of the 10 most-visited Web sites, and in Egypt it ranks third, after Google and Yahoo. About one in nine Egyptians has Internet access, and around 9 percent of that group are on Facebook — a total of almost 800,000 members. This month, hundreds of Egyptian Facebook members, in private homes and at Internet cafes, have set up Gaza-related “groups.” Most expressed hatred for Israel and the United States, but each one had its own focus. Some sought to coordinate humanitarian aid to Gaza, some criticized the Egyptian government, some criticized other Arab countries for blaming Egypt for the conflict and still others railed against Hamas."
The article then looks at internal protest within Egypt, in particular, the April 6 Youth Movement that attempted to organize a national strike in Egypt. The case study not only shows how social networks can be used for protest but that they are not risk free:
"[Facebook] ...members who identified themselves as government security agents joined the April 6 group, too, posting comments under the insignia of the Egyptian police, and as April 6 approached, the government issued a strong warning against participation in the strike."
Shortly after, the Facebook organizer, Esraa Rashid was arrested.

The popularity of Egyptian and other online protests has caught the attention of the U.S. State Department:
"State Department officials ... believe that social-networking software like Facebook’s has the potential to become a powerful pro-democracy tool. They pointed to recent developments in Saudi Arabia, where in November a Facebook group helped organize a national hunger strike against the kingdom’s imprisonment of political opponents, and in Colombia, where activists last February used Facebook to organize one of the largest protests ever held in that country, a nationwide series of demonstrations against the FARC insurgency."

Revolution, Facebook-Style

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Social Networks Becoming an Important Method of Online Protest

The importance of social networking in online protest is becoming more apparent during the Israeli Palestinian conflict in Gaza. The use of various networks such as YouTube and Flickr allow both side to show and tell their story but it appears that Facebook is where the action is.

These social networks are used by individuals, groups and governments to convey their messages, rally support, solicit donations and organize physical protests.

"On Dec. 30, the Israeli consulate in New York conducted a news conference on the war entirely on Twitter, the social messaging site where users communicate in short, rapid-fire notes, or "tweets."

"As a chance to field questions from a world audience, the experiment succeeded, but with questions and answers limited by Twitter to 140 characters, it didn't exactly make for nuanced discussion, even when consulate staffers rewrote the abbreviations." - McClatchy

"The IDF itself has also begun an Internet effort, making use of YouTube and a blog to post official army videos and information about the situation in Gaza. ...its videos had been viewed over 750,000 times. " - The Jerusalem Post
There are even meta-protest sites that allow visitors to vote or pick which side they want to support:
"It doesn't get any simpler than, where visitors can just pick sides. With nearly 500,000 votes cast, the race is a virtual tie, while the Web site's server is overloaded." - McClatchy
This isn't limited to the current Israel-Gaza conflict. allows people to voice their opinion on the gas standoff with the EU.

Online and traditional media are increasingly reporting not just the use of social networking but their effectiveness:
"More than 1,000 students and ethnic minorities swarmed the streets of Hong Kong Sunday responding to a Facebook call to march against Israel’s deadliest assault yet on impoverished Gaza." - Saudi Gazette
Traditional social networks are not the only places online protest is showing up. Virtual worlds such as Second Life are developing protest movements as well:
"Virtual worlds have been left mostly to their own devices and the picture is somewhat different with no overt ‘official’ presence from the Israeli government or Hamas. Both sides of the conflict are therefore, represented in Second Life by, Second Life Israel and the Palestinian Holocaust Memorial Museum (slurl) hosted by the IslamOnline site. Second Life Israel (slurl) has been the focus of some limited protest within Second Life, while the Palestinian Holocaust Memorial Museum is much more of an information hub." - MetaSecurity
In fact, the issue of security and protest in virtual worlds now has its own blog, which states its purpose as:

"... a blog that seeks to explore ideas relating to the security implications of virtual communities. The blog will post articles and commentary relating to security events in this rapidly growing sector. Specific topics include:

  • Fraud
  • Money Laundering
  • Inworld criminal activity
  • Legal responses
  • Inworld extremist acvivity
  • Software Security"
The introduction of social networks and virtual worlds has increased the relevance of online protest but the importance of the media in furthering online political causes is not new and was seen in the 1980s and 1990s:
"Politically motivated computer crime differs from traditional “hacking” in that the target is chosen - and the attack is designed - to effect a change in the behavior or activity of the victim. Therefore, a cyber attack, in isolation, most likely will not accomplish the goal of the attacker. It is for this reason that politically motivated cyber attacks are often combined with extensive public relation campaigns." - Politically Motivated Computer Crime and Hacktivism
It is obvious that this activity will evolve quickly. As the effectiveness of these types of protests increase, I'm sure we will see an increase in attempts to censor or block them. We're not in Kansas anymore...

Some other media quotes related to social network protest movements:

"As soon as Operation Cast Lead began to take shape just over a week ago, Dan Peguine started the program QassamCount, a system that updates users' statuses on Facebook with the number of Kassams that hit Israel.

"Within the first three days, 10,000 people had donated their statuses to the cause.

"Peguine first started a program counting Kassams about a week before the operation in Gaza began. He used Twitter, which sends users' statuses to all their "followers," to help people understand how often rockets hit the South" - The Jerusalem Post

"An enormous number of people around the world are using blogs, YouTube and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to register their support or opposition to the war. Thousands of images — from Palestinians under siege in Gaza to Israeli neighborhoods that have been hit by Hamas rocket attacks — have filled photo-sharing sites such as Flickr and Picasa."

"So how are young people protesting the conflict in Gaza through Facebook? Well, in many, and often time creative ways, such as through status messages, notes, and most significantly through the formation of groups. Some of the groups that have been created in response to the airstrikes include, “Stop Israeli attacks on Gaza,” “Gaza is bleeding,” “Prayers for Gaza People,” and “Let’s collect 50,000 signatures to support the Palestinians in Gaza.” - The Examiner

Gaza War's New Front: Facebook (Wired Magazine)
Social networking boost for Gazans (Saudi Gazette)
Gaza war also being waged in cyberspace (McClathy)
Twitter, Facebook users show solidarity with QassamCount (The Jerusalem Post)
Gaza, Information War and Second Life (MetaSecurity)
Increased Use of Social Networks in Protests (PoliticalHacking)
Politically Motivated Computer Crime and Hacktivism