Posted: February 5, 2011 by BlackNETintel-2 in BlackNET Intelligence

For DICTATORS, ‘Internets’ are a TWO-WAY Street, TOO

Tangled Web

Authoritarian regimes, alas, know how to exploit social media, too.

“The revolution will not be tweeted,” Malcolm Gladwell declared in a New Yorker piece several months ago, debunking inflated faith in the power of social networking to spread democracy. “We seem to have forgotten what social activism is,” he went on. “… We are a long way from the lunch counters of Greensboro.” To many altruistic souls clicking away on behalf of various causes—swathing their Twitter icons, for example, in green to show solidarity with Iranian activists—Gladwell’s argument was an outrage. Less excitable bloggers were put off, too: Surely social networking would only help, not hurt, the battle against authoritarianism. “Is the web doing much to help the worst African dictators or the totalitarians in North Korea?” Tyler Cowen asked on Marginal Revolution. Though “[n]ot so many data are in,” he was dubious that the tweeting was helping those entrenched in power.

In a new book, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, Evgeny Morozov scrutinizes plenty of evidence and concludes that the Web can, and does, indeed help dictators in a variety of ways. (Morozov, who was born in Belarus and researches the effects of the Internet on political behavior, also blogs for the Slate Group‘s Foreign Policy and has written on this subject for Slate.) We like to think that information sets us free, and that access to the Internet can lead those oppressed by authoritarians into the light of democracy. But the Internet is not a one-way street, and dictatorial regimes are quite technologically savvy. Countries like Egypt may block the Internet at times, but they can take advantage of it, too, using it not just to help track down dissidents but also to dispense propaganda. Morozov goes beyond Gladwell. It’s not just that the revolution will not be tweeted. The Internet, he argues, may prevent the revolution from getting off the ground.

Take the case of the Iranian protests in 2009. “Iran’s Twitter Revolution revealed the intense Western longing for a world where information technology is the liberator rather than the oppressor,” writes Morozov. The “revolution” did change things for the opposition, he argues—but in the wrong direction. The Iranian government and its hard-line supporters used mobile and Internet technology all too astutely against the protesters. Gleaning information from Facebook, they sent “threatening messages” to Iranians living abroad, text-messaged Iranians to stay home and avoid the protests, and urged “pious Iranians” to fight back online.

Meanwhile, Morozov casts credible doubt on the alleged success of the protesters in mobilizing Twitter and other social media for their mission. Twitter was not terribly popular in Iran prior to the elections, with just 19,235 Twitter accounts registered in Iran, or 0.027 percent of the Iranian population. When Al-Jazeera fact-checkers tried to verify that tweets originated in Iran, they could “confirm only sixty active Twitter accounts in Tehran, a number that fell to six once the Iranian authorities cracked down on online communications.” Many of the tweets that publicized the election unrest were actually coming from Iranians living abroad; Twitter may have helped spread the word internationally, but given the relatively tiny number of Iranians on Twitter, it couldn’t have been used for large-scale organizing.

The most frightening evidence of the government’s technological prowess was its use of Facebook to contact Iranians abroad. Such social-networking analysis holds great potential for authoritarian regimes: Activists who blithely “friend” one another make investigations much easier for authorities trying to monitor troublemakers. This “social-network surveillance” could ruin on-the-ground organizations, as members’ connections to one another are revealed. In The Net Delusion, Morozov tells the story of a young activist from his native Belarus who was called into his university to talk to the KGB. (It still exists, and is active, in Belarus.) The officers had detailed knowledge of Pavel Lyashkovich’s travel, involvement with anti-governmental organizations, and connections in the dissident community, merely from checking his social-networking activity. It’s easy to say that Lyashkovich should have taken more care to cover his tracks.

[CAUTION: BEWARE the Oxymoronic, mutually exclusive dilemma:]

But if the point of social networking is to broadcast change, it is maddeningly circular to say that activists must hide their connections to one another

Continue reading FULL Story:

Article published Dec 21, 2007
China taps into U.S. spy operations

Washington Times – December 21, 2007

By Bill Gertz

China’s intelligence service gained access to a secret National Security Agency listening post in Hawaii through a Chinese-language translation service, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

The spy penetration was discovered several years ago as part of a major counterintelligence probe by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) that revealed an extensive program by China’s spy service to steal codes and other electronic intelligence secrets, and to recruit military and civilian personnel with access to them.

According to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, China’s Ministry of State Security, the main civilian spy service, carried out the operations by setting up a Chinese translation service in Hawaii that represented itself as a U.S.-origin company.

The ruse led to classified contracts with the Navy and NSA to translate some of the hundreds of thousands of intercepted communications gathered by NSA’s network of listening posts, aircraft and ships.

NCIS agents discovered that the translation service, which officials did not identify by name, had conducted contract work for the National Security Agency facility at Kunia, an underground electronic intelligence post some 15 miles northwest of Honolulu that conducts some of the U.S. intelligence community’s most sensitive work.

Kunia is both a processing center and a collection point for large amounts of Chinese- and other Asian-language communications, which are translated and used in classified intelligence reports on military and political developments.

Naval intelligence officials familiar with the Chinese spy penetration said the access to both “raw” and analyzed intelligence at Kunia caused significant damage by giving China’s government details on both the targets and the sources of U.S. spying operations. Such information would permit the Chinese to block the eavesdropping or to provide false and misleading “disinformation” to U.S. intelligence.

The officials did not say how long the Chinese operation lasted before being detected….

FULL Story…

Repression 2.0 04-05-2008

Totalitarian states are learning to control citizens by creating the impression of ubiquitous surveillance.

by Adam B. Kushner

April 05, 2008

In the latest twist on Internet repression, governments don’t just censor, they scare. Last week, for example, the Chinese government broadcast a text message to cell-phone users in Lhasa, Tibet, where Beijing has cracked down on protests in recent weeks. The message demanded that users “obey the law” and “follow the rules,” and no protester could have mistaken the meaning, or the messenger. If the government also managed to terrify even quiet, apolitical citizens, Chinese and Tibetan—well, so be it. Repression 2.0 is not a precise technology.

The essence of the new repression is a form of surveillance in which the spies make their presence known in order to seem like they are everywhere. This strategy has emerged in recent years as authoritarian governments, led by China, have realized there are too many people online to control. State censors can’t keep eyes on the 210 million Internet users in China, the 18 million in Iran, nor the 6 million in Egypt. The idea is not just to stop people from finding “dangerous” material online. It’s to create an atmosphere in which none will seek it.

Repression 1.0 was simpler, but less effective. Then, the idea was outright censorship, and it still goes on today. As Internet users began communicating directly with individual Web sites, governments built (or bought) software filters designed to block any site they feared. Saudi Arabia blocks porn sites, Vietnam blocks political sites and so on. It’s just that the filters have never worked well. They blocked either too much content or too little. Just as with your family computer’s anti-porn software, the high setting might filter informative sites about breast cancer. The low setting can filter known offenders, but it remains vulnerable to sites offering new content and new ways to evade filtration.

When Web 2.0 technologies—like Web mail and social-networking sites—began to take off in 2002, they made it harder for censors to know what to block. Some Facebook users might fill their profiles with criticism of the government, but others might credulously purvey official propaganda. Facebook could hurt the government or help it, depending on the user rather than on the site itself. So instead of stopping Netizens from reaching Web 2.0 sites like Facebook or Gmail, the authorities turned to surveillance.

Of course, surveillance itself doesn’t curtail free expression. But unlike Stasi agents listening through carefully hidden microphones, Web 2.0 spies don’t hide.

Their crudest tool is compulsory registration—to blog, to secure an Internet connection or even to get a terminal at the neighborhood Internet café. While Internet cafés worldwide opened without much state interference in the late ’90s, before long every government that limits speech also required Internet-café goers to register with proprietors and to log in with government IDs. According to Ethan Zuckerman, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, some nations like Zimbabwe even deploy security agents—or people who act like them—to wander the aisles at cafés, glancing at screens. At the same time, digital records of which sites patrons visit are squirreled away for eternity in official databases. Today, Chinese café patrons would be taking a big risk searching “Tibet and crackdown,” and they know it.

But Web 2.0 technology posed a new problem for censors. By indexing data on remote servers rather than downloading it to the user’s workstation, social-networking sites like Facebook, Web-mail programs like Gmail and consumer sites like Netflix render themselves hard to watch. When almost all information online was transmitted by local Internet service providers and stored by local hosts, a government like Vietnam’s could read data stored on a server in Ho Chi Minh City whenever it pleased—and respond by cutting off a user’s access to that server. But Hanoi can’t control what happens on Google servers in Mountain View, California. And it can’t peek at every data packet going to and from America—the volume is too great.

Yet if governments can convince people that they are reading everything, they might not actually have to. And so the information-control agents from the world’s most repressive regimes began thinking about what watchdogs call the “panopticon effect”—named for a type of prison conceived by the 18th-century social critic Jeremy Bentham. In it, a guard can watch the prisoners without their being able to tell whether he’s watching. The question for authoritarians was the same: how do you make people feel as if they’re being watched at all times and internalize the sense of omniscient authority? A crude answer is the simple broadcast message. Xiao Qiang, the director of the China Internet Project, says that university functionaries might send a note to all students: “This weekend, public-security authorities will install security software on our system.” He adds, “You don’t know how well it works or what it does, but you certainly know every student is being warned.” Or the authorities might send a text-message like the one in Lhasa last week—a trick achieved by detecting which phones communicating with local Tibetan cell-phone towers are roaming domestic subscribers.

Newer, automated methods are targeting individuals more directly. These methods are hard to track in detail because they are invariably deep official secrets, but experts believe China is the leading state practitioner right now. The most famous example is the avatar duo of Jingjing and Chacha (puns on the Chinese word for police), who appeared in early 2006. They are two adorable cartoon cops with big heads, big eyes and tight mouths in the anime style. They live on the home pages of several ISPs, or else they arrive, uninvited, on the screens of Chinese Netizens. If a Web surfer visits a domain that has elected to host the cartoon characters, Jingjing or Chacha may appear spontaneously to dispense amiable advice about online behavior. “We will send kind reminders to people to establish online safety and … to respect online laws and regulations by regulating themselves to create a healthy Internet circumstance and to maintain harmonious order,” Jingjing says on his blog. Chen Minli, the head of Internet security and surveillance in the southern city of Shenzhen, explained the point of these Web cops to the Xinhua news service, driving home the panopticon effect: “The purpose is to let all Internet users know that the Internet is not a place beyond the law. The Internet police will maintain order in all online behaviors.”

Other examples of ham-fisted surveillance—the kind meant to be noticed—have been chronicled by the Open Net Initiative, a collaboration of several Western universities studying Internet freedoms. China is finding new and varied ways to apply its keyword-tracking technologies. First used to censor Web sites that contain certain phrases, they are now deployed to create the sensation that an intelligence agent is watching. The researchers report e-mails that sometimes arrive and sometimes don’t, search engines that suddenly stop accepting particular queries, words that are sometimes excised and Web sites that arbitrarily become unavailable (browsers report a failure to connect or time out). For Netizens, it’s impossible to know whether those effects represent censors typing away in a government data center or whether they’re simply automated, like Jingjing and Chacha.

The trick about the new repression isn’t just getting people to think the government knows—or seems to know—what they’re doing; it’s making them believe they’ll pay the price. Here the technology of Repression 2.0 melds with old-fashioned strong-arm methods: those caught misbehaving are subjected to highly publicized character assassination, interrogation, threats to friends and families, trumped-up charges and show trials. Chinese police have shown up at the homes of Web surfers just minutes after they view an illicit site. Egyptian and Saudi courts try bloggers for sedition…

Continue Reading FULL Story…

[Information contained in BKNT E-Posts is considered Attorney-Client and Attorney Work Product privileged, copyrighted and confidential. Views that may be expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of any government, agency, or news organization.]


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