Protecting Arabs Online

Posted April 9th, 2011 at 1:48 pm (UTC-4)
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…And Taking Armenia Off

Two items recently caught our eye.  There’s not much on our part to add, but in retrospect they both seem to speak to a similar theme – that of how fragile our online worlds can be.

First, the nonprofit Access Now – a loose group campaigning for expanded online freedom and access – has released new report designed to protect pro-democracy activists in the Arab world.  “Protecting Your Security Online” comes in both Arabic and English versions, and includes many ideas and pointers for anyone wanting to protect their online activities from prying eyes.

Topics include secure browsing, circumvention technologies, encryption and many others, including this helpful tip that we think can’t be repeated enough:

“There are increasing options for utilizing GPS technology in order to demonstrate your physical location when online. This can be a powerful tool when used as part of a coordinated campaign to map out reports from the ground using mobiles during a crisis or key event, but it also gives out incredibly sensitive information about your location and activities. We recommend you turn GPS tracking off for programs such as Twitter and Bambuser unless it’s temporary and critical to an activist project you’re working on. Even if the GPS is not displayed, it is critical to disable the collection of this information in your web browser or other client.”

Beyond this specific report, the Access Now site is a rich cache of news, events, and projects focused on expanding Internet access and use, and well worth spending some time exploring.

The second item comes from Armenia, but actually begins in neighboring Georgia.  As reported here by the Guardian newspaper, it seems an elderly Georgian woman who was scavenging for old, unused copper pipes accidentally cut through an underground cable.

The cable that provides nearly all Internet access to Armenia.  Oops.

Seems nearly all of Armenia’s Internet traffic is routed through Georgia, and that particular cable.  Severed with a simple shovel, it threw Armenia’s businesses, government and 3.2 million residents  temporarily offline.  ZDNet adds this incredulous comment:

“I cannot understand how this lady managed to find and damage the cable,” Giorgi Ionatamishvili, head of marketing for Georgian Railway Telecom, told AFP in the report.  “It has robust protection and such incidents are extremely rare,” he added.

Apparently, not robust enough for a spade wielded by a 75-year-old pensioner.  The woman’s name has not been released, but wags in Georgia have already begun referring to her as “the spade-hacker.”

The connection has been repaired, and all appears well.  However, we  worry this may give Anonymous new ideas.

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What’s Digital Frontiers?

What’s Digital Frontiers?

The Internet, mobile phones, tablet computers and other digital devices are transforming our lives in fundamental and often unpredictable ways. “Digital Frontiers” investigates how real world concepts like privacy, identity, security and freedom are evolving in the virtual world.

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April 2011
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