The following are community updates from the weekly Glitter Meetup. If you need to connect to anyone mentioned below, please reach out. We do practice "consensual introductions," meaning we have to check with the person before doing so. No names are associated with the summary notes. Please contact us if you have any questions related to these notes. email@example.com
March 5, 2020
After making the hard decision of cancelling the 2020 edition of the Internet Freedom Festival because of the increasing spreading of the COVID-19, we gather with the community to answer questions and shape future editions and other ways to work together during the year.
Our decision was easy, once we knew that we had to protect our community.
- information sharing and coordination was key in our decision making process. Early in February, when the outbreak started reaching other countries, i began reaching out to other risk managers / safety friends who were working other global gatherings. mainly, i wanted to learn / know how other groups were managing the risk assessments. i started to track many of the conference cancellations and by mid-february, i knew that we had some hard decisions to make.
- the overriding principle for us to ensure that our participants were safe at the IFF, safe during transit, and safe going home.
- when the cases in valencia increased, we knew that it was impossible for the virus to be contained and it would’ve severely impact our community, many of whom are freelancers or coming from organizations without institutional support.
Brainstorming about the IFF community work through the year:
- Use an online conference website that allows for self-organize style...so i was thinking we can test out having a 2 hour self organize style online where people can do breakouts, and then report out back to the community. But it would be capped at x people.
- A monthly community report, where folks can share changes/developments in their regions, but also thought they have about direction of community.
- Try to better empower local hubs, and potentially do something fun between cities. Like for example, maybe two cities can meet at same time, and we create stations in each, where people can just go pu to the computer, and talk to folks in the other city.
Resources and Ideas:
- We discussed different possibilities for presenters and participants and the challenges that people with high security level faces during webinars.
- Virtual Conference: https://unhangout.media.mit.edu/
- Tips on how to organize a virtual event: https://www.ictworks.org/coronavirus-cancel-conference/#.XmEM4pNKjBI
February 27, 2020
What is GlobaLeaks
- GlobaLeaks is a software based on Tor intended to enable journalistic sources to report anonymously to journalists. It is as well used in the anticorruption field and to protect sources in general.
What about the installation?
- As any opensource software it is build and designed to be installed as a personal tool on a personal infrastructure. In addition to this the software nowadays make it possible a hosting organization to safely provision a platform as a service to other organizations. This is working well empowering anticorruption NGOs to provision the software to their partner organizations.
- In this sense small organizations can rely on the knowledge and the infrastructure of more structured organizations.
GlobaLeaks is used all over the world
- Transparency International italy using this model is supporting 1000 public agencies building anticorruption mailboxes
- Thanks to the localization lab community the software is translated in more than 30 languages so far
- For the new release coming very soon (GlobaLeaks 4) they are calling translators to translate the news strings
- GlobaLeaks-based platform are accessible via the Tor browser using an onion link guaranteeing digital anonymity: https://www.opentech.fund/news/taking-anonymous-online-whistleblowing-global/
How or why was Globaleaks started. Meaning, what pushed forward the development?
- In 2011, the team identified the need for a tool empowering defending people willing to report malpractices of society.
- It was the time of DataLeaking; working on this we discovered that some organizations like Transparency International and Privacy Concern At Work were already supporting this "heroes" with analogic and improper tools.
- As technologist they worked on trying to renew this tools providing digital secure tools to fight the same causes.
Paterns on whistlebowers
- Many of this revelations take time to be processed because legal procedures takes places and last longer
- They are aware of important cases of reporting and currently not aware of any retailiation due to the use of their technology
- EU for example is going to be well regulated and offers more legal protections in this sense
February 20, 2020
- Myanmar Digital Rights Forum: https://www.digitalrightsmm.info/
February 13, 2020
- Today Russian court fined Twitter and Facebook for not moving their servers to Russia: https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2020/02/13/russia-fines-twitter-and-facebook-63000-each-over-data-law-a69280
- PBS Frontline just published a documentary about Hong Kong Protests: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/battle-for-hong-kong/ (but might only allows in Northen America region)
- Malaysian gov recently actively arresting and charging/fining people who post/spread false information about coronavirus. Last update was 2 days ago, someone in east Malaysia got fined about MYR5000 and one reporter was arrested and on bail now.
- Check this article, written by one of our fellows, about guidelines to create digisec policy and best practices for small scale organization: https://www.opentech.fund/news/guidelines-creating-digital-security-policy/
February 6, 2020
- VPN users being tortured in Kashmir: https://www.vpncompare.co.uk/vpn-torture-kashmir/
- For the Tor users on Fedora/CentOS/RHEL, we now have official packages from the Tor Project https://support.torproject.org/rpm/
- People run Tor relays on different Linux based operating systems, but, mostly Debian/Ubuntu could directly install Tor package from the Tor project itself, now, people using Fedora or CentOS or RHEL can also get the latest and greatest version of the Tor directly from Tor itself.
January 16, 2020
Our feature guest is Tek, a security researcher working for Amnesty Tech on digital surveillance against Human Right Defenders. He is also a research fellow at the Citizen Lab. Today we are going to talk to him about his article: Targeted Attacks Against Civil Society (https://www.randhome.io/blog/2019/12/02/targeted-attacks-against-civil-society-what-is-new-in-2019/)
What are targeted attacks?
- We call targeted attacks, malware of phishing attacks targeting people for the sake of gathering information on them, so there is no intention of getting any money (like cyber-criminal attacks such as ransomware would do), but monitor their activities. This type of attack is not new, first reports about such attacks against civil society date back to 2008 and the report on Ghostnet targeted the Dalai Lama office in India.
- Historically, it started with a lot of emails with malware attached to them, either documents using vulnerabilities to install a malware of just a malware pretending to be a document (and sometime opening it). These attacks are still happening, like in Azerbaijan a few years ago https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2017/03/False-Friends-Spearphishing-of-Dissidents-in-Azerbaijan/
- But more and more people started to use documents in the cloud, on Google drive to others. So the attackers started targeting more and more the mailbox with phishing email. These attacks are way more easy because you do not need a malware, just copy a login page on a fake domain and record the password when the user enter it.
- Citizen Lab wrote about this change in tactics in 2016 against Tibetan communities https://citizenlab.ca/2016/03/shifting-tactics/ and it is something we see very regularly now, like in Egypt last year https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2019/03/phishing-attacks-using-third-party-applications-against-egyptian-civil-society-organizations/
- And lately we are investigating more and more more advanced attacks done using malware and exploits sold by companies like NSO group. Citizen Lab wrote about it for the first time in 2016 https://citizenlab.ca/2016/08/million-dollar-dissident-iphone-zero-day-nso-group-uae/ and we have investigated attacks using NSO group recently in Morocco https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/research/2019/10/Morocco-Human-Rights-Defenders-Targeted-with-NSO-Groups-Spyware/
- These attacks are targeting smartphones with very advanced techniques, often using 0-day exploits that costs a lot of money. These attacks are more rare but also very dangerous because they are able to compromise smartphones with little or no user interaction. (There is today a court hearing going on Israel for a petition asking the Israeli MOD to revoke NSO Group export license, see https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/01/israel-court-nso-case-behind-closed-doors/ )
Has 2019 witness more attacks against civil society than in previous years?
- Yes, especially because of the discovery of attacks against Uyghurs and the WhatsApp hack by NSO on which we got a lot of information thanks to WhatsApp / FB. But it is hard to say if it is that we know more or if there are more.
- We have a lot of knowledge on the attacks in some regions (like Tibetan activists, or Mexico) because of work done there, but there are still areas (like South America) where we have very little knowledge.
So what has changed recently?
- First, there are a lot of phishing attacks targeting online accounts and they get more complex in two ways: first they regularly use OAuth authentication. OAuth is a protocol that allows an external application to get access to your Google/Facebook/Outlook account for different reasons, it is for instance the protocol that is used when you login into a website with your FB/Google/Twitter/Other account. What is dangerous with that is that it is pretty different from other phishing attacks, and it is easy for people to fall into it. (read more about it here https://guides.securitywithoutborders.org/guide-to-phishing/oauth-phishing.html )
So we aren't able to know if the attacks have been increasing but we can confirm that the methods are getting more complex
- We don't know what we don't know, so it is hard to factually prove that there are more attacks. We are seeing more advanced attacks by groups like NSO, with 0-day and no-click attacks, but the vast majority of attacks are still not very sophisticated and using techniques that have been there for a while and are cheap (like fake google domains)
What are some of the new attacks that you have witnessed during 2019?
- On phishing, something we have started to see in 2019 is using phishing kits that are bypassing most forms of Two Factor authentication. Two Factor Authentication is having another authentication method beyond your password, it is often a token given by SMS, by a smartphone app (such as FreeOTP, or Google Authenticator) or a hardware key.
- Modern phishing kits are using a technique to relay the request to their fake website to the real platform and this bypass all forms of two factor authentication, except hardware tokens. It is thus important to promote more hardware keys like Yubikey or Solokeys
- This is pretty new, but there are now open source phishing kits doing that, and most of the phishing attacks we see today are bypassing most forms of second factor.
- And there is like a gap between companies selling very advanced tools (NSO has 500+ employees), and some government paying hackers with average technical skills to send phishing to activists. The first one is more advanced, harder to fight against, but also more rare, and most of the attacks we see are the second case.
You talk about attacks bypassing 2 factor Authorization, and the need to move towards hardware token for 2fa Where can you purchase this hardware? If folks can’t afford it, are there are places where they may be able to get it for free?
- There are different organizations doing hardware tokens, the most used are Yubikeys, Solokeys and now Google is making their own Titan keys
- Several organizations are providing some to activists for free, we try to bring some when we are doing a security training. You often get some at events like IFF.
Now that we know more about the attacks and their complexity: What entities are leading malware creation/execution?
- It really depends on the context of the country, we see some countries like Russia or China developing skills of targeted attacks in the country, they even have often several groups in charge of different types of attacks (companies or activists).
- In many other countries, they are not able to do that, and they rely on buying the malware and tools from companies like NSO Group, Hacking Team, FinFisher etc. These companies are mostly based in Europe (often in Italy) or Israel.
- And they are often involved in a broader surveillance ecosystem, with companies like NICE (an american company) reselling and installing tools from other manifacturers
what are new threats you see coming in the future?
The trend is :
- More phishing attacks
- More attacks on smartphones
- Development of very sophisticated attacks used in some countries, but most attacks are still going to use techniques that are not very sophisticated (such as phishing or backdoored android applications)
Have you seen cyber attacks against relatives/partners of those who work in this space?
- There is one case in Mexico reported by Citizen Lab where they targeted the son of a prominent journalist https://citizenlab.ca/2017/06/reckless-exploit-mexico-nso/
Some HRA uses external sites to 'upload' evidence and content to and then delete/remove it from their own devices. Are there certain places that keep content safe from these attacks?
- Uploading sensitive data from a server and removing from the phone can be really useful for instance for crossing borders, or during protests, but if the phone is compromised before, the attackers may be able to monitor the phone activity before it is uploaded and remove from it.
How to get psychologists involved? Have you achived any positive results on this way? Any word of advice?
- This attacks are mostly not about digital means of protection but psychological ones. ("How can I distinguish that someone's trying to use me? How can I see what vulnerabilites of mine are most likely to be used by bad guys?") We discovered that digital things (such as 2FA) simply didn't work in some situations and we needed some assistance from psychologists to work with people.
- We have seen many cases where attackers used quite low-level attacks but they were combined with very good knowledge of the political context and good social engineering skills. There is definitely more work to be done to understand how to explain phishing and help people react to social engineering and I have not seen many psychologists involved in it, it would definitely be interesting
- Is some good work being done and developed to improve security trainings and make them more into adult training, so maybe there are psychologists involved in it (https://level-up.cc/ )
As a UX designer, how can we make this information help the design community build safer, informative tools for HRA's? Designers are typically the first line of defense and play a good role in informing/protecting users of stuff like this!
- developing ways to explain these attacks better are definitely needed more. A good example of some work done in that area is the phishing quizz developed by Google https://phishingquiz.withgoogle.com/
- There are many different directions to fight against these attacks. One of our approach is to make forensic knowledge more easily available to tech people supporting human right defenders. It is very common to have people think their device is compromised and we did not have any good methodology to check if it really was. So with Security Without Borders, we have developed a guide to help with that https://guides.securitywithoutborders.org/guide-to-quick-forensics/
It is pretty easy on Windows and Mac, but harder on smartphones, so we are trying to find better techniques and tool to do that on smartphone
Regarding to the malware spreading on Telegram during HK Protests. There's anything we can do? Like a bot that can filter those or identify those...?
- We have seen malware being shared on chat applications a lot, but mostly privately, HK is the only case where malware was shared on a group chat. It would be definitely possible to develop a telegram bot to monitor chat groups, and it could be an interesting way to identify attacks, but you have to monitor the right groups.
Do you see people reusing different malware/exploits in different campaigns in different countries?
- Yes often. There are two different cases for malware, it can be either malware from a company like FinFisher or a malware that is open source or sold on the black market.
- Sometimes, we see some private tools shared by groups that are related to different country that we cannot explain.
- Exploits we see are very often public exploits, so they are reused because they are available on Internet
January 9, 2020
For this Glitter Meetup, we have a feature guest: Tamara, one of the Community Builders of the 2020 IFF. She works on emergency assistance for activists and journalists around the world.
Is harassment online a real problem for women journalists? can you explain a bit about this? Where it happens? Why it happens? And are there any populations or areas of the world this happens more than others, or is it global?
- Yes, online harassment is a real problem for journalists, but even more so for female journalists.
- As a female journalist she has faced online harassment based on gender many times, may it be from comments under her articles, or from online audiences during panels that she was speaking on, etc. Back then, she thought that perhaps she was doing something wrong or that she should simply not pay attention to this and not be too soft.
- Five years ago she started working on emergency assistance, and over 40% of their casework covers journalists. And of course, they face all sorts of threats. Arrest, murder, you name it. But. A lot of times the harassment/ threats/ insults start online. The thing is that journalists often don’t take those seriously. Female journalists in particular often think that this just comes with the job.
- The harassers don't discriminate, in every region there are plenty of them. There is a difference however with regards to who the harassers are. So, for example, in Eurasia and MENA regions, we have seen more government and troll factory-based harassers of female journalists, in the US it is more from certain conservative groups, etc. But if we look at the specific areas of coverage. Number one, at least according to some of our data at the emergency assistance program is corruption reporting. Then come issues, such as migration, LGBTQI.
- Troll factories are literally offices where people are hired to sit and search online space for content and comment in order to create fuss, or harass someone, etc. In Azerbaijan, for example, troll factories are used to harass female reporters, opposition, but also simply to 'express love for the president and their family'. Being a troll is a paid job sometimes, also in some countries students of state-funded universities or state employees are forced to be trolls for free (or they lose school placement, or their job)
- Also, female journalists, especially if they write opinion pieces, are way more often scrutinized with regards to their expertise (e.g. 'do you really have expertise to write about this?') and therefore are being threatened.
- One participant added that some of their coworkers often express that they are tired of comments and threats to them just because they are women, specially when they do articles or investigations with the conflict that Colombia still living between guerrillas, drug lords, etc.
- Report done by IWMF on the topic: https://www.iwmf.org/attacks-and-harassment/
Many folks here are digital security trainers, or provide digital security support. what advice can they give to women journalist they may be assisting who may be experiencing this. what can be done
- First and foremost it is important that female journalists don't normalize online harassment and recognize that there is a threat. The problem with online threats that I have seen in the past five years of my work is that they usually escalate. For example, if at first someone is telling a female journalist that she is a liar and she therefore deserves to die, then eventually a physical attack from this person, or from others who were 'inspired' by this harasser follows.
- Now, in terms of what digital security experts can advise. When online harassment happens and even in other instances, female journalists need to first of all take care of their own security. We usually recommend that they talk both to digital and physical security experts.
What tools or sites you recommend to find more info about Online Security for female journalists?
- Getting in touch with Frontline Defenders' digital experts, or Access Now, or, smaller digital security and physical security expert groups, such as, for example, people from Tbilisi Shelter in Georgia.
- One participant added that FLD, Access Now, etc. are great advices for the majority of human rights defenders and independent journalists but there should be something more specific when it comes to female journalists and online threats.
- IWMF, CPJ, Amnesty have some good resources on their sites. But there aren't enough groups that deal with online harassment in general, and especially online harassment against women regionally. For example, in the North Caucasus in Russia where such attacks have happened, and very little to no local support is available.
Are there any gender-specific advices on (say) guidelines, recommendations, anything to read? watch online?
- With regards to steps: 1. stop your current work and focus on addressing your security situation 2. if you work full time as a reporter, your management is your first call. If you are a freelancer, speak to your immediate support network (your fellow reporter friends, civil society groups inside your country that help journalists and female journalists in particular) and then speak to groups that support journalists (happy to help connect if needed), such as Acos Alliance, Rory Peck Trust, CPJ, RSF, Freedom House, Frontline Defenders, Civil rights defenders, etc. 3. Develop a security plan. Female journalists often have dependents in their care, such as minors or parents. Make sure your security plan includes them. 4. Your security plan has to cover your digital presence (such as, don't checkin on IG and FB, don't post personal info, contact white pages (or whatever address book alternative in your country) and ask them to take down your address, etc. But it also has to include psycho-social and physical security components. Such as, don't take your usual route to work. Checkin more frequently with your children, etc. (this sounds scary and somewhat unnecessary at times, but it is vital) 5. If the harassment includes exposure of any content with regards to you online, develop a plan re how to eliminate that content (contacting social media platform, mobilizing a support network. in some cases, even take legal action). 6. If things escalate, we usually recommend temporary relocation. as disruptive as it sounds to your life, it is sometimes needed to avoid further escalation.
- One participant added a good advice: "other journalists reported shifting how they cover the news to prevent harassment. For example, an online reporter in Taiwan said she focuses on positive news so she won’t get attacked"
- A Latina newspaper reporter in the U.S. took a different tack. She said she faced extreme harassment online when she started her job five years ago, so now she is extra-vigilant about showing multiple sides of a story to prevent complaints that may escalate into abuse. On the other hand, a TV journalist in the U.S. said she tries to avoid details in her stories that she knows will upset people. “Yes, it affects the way I do my stories,” she said. “I am more careful.”
- It is important to have colleagues to rely on to talk about harassment encountered and to help by, for instance, moderating the comments
- Uses Facebook’s word-blocker function on professional page to prevent words like “sexy,” “hot,” or “boobs” from being posted by users
- IAWRT Manual: https://www.iawrt.org/sites/default/files/field/pdf/2017/11/IAWRT%20Safety%20Manual.Download.10112017.pdf
- CPJ Canada/USA survey: https://cpj.org/blog/2019/09/canada-usa-female-journalist-safety-online-harassment-survey.php
- CPJ manual on how to mitigate sexual violence https://cpj.org/2019/09/physical-safety-mitigating-sexual-violence.php
- IJNET Guide: https://ijnet.org/en/story/how-newsrooms-can-fight-online-harassment-targeting-female-journalists
- OSCE Guide: https://www.osce.org/fom/220411?download=true
- OSCE Manual: https://www.osce.org/representative-on-freedom-of-media/safety-female-journalists-online
Can you talk a bit about the psychological impact this has?
- The psychological impact is huge indeed. From own experience covering mass protests back at home in 2005-2008, as a young female journalist you would get harassed all the time, so you try to wear least revealing clothes, put all of your hair under a hat, always go with a male colleague on reporting assignments, make sure your phone is charged, etc.
- From Tamara's experience working with female journalists in the past five years, the most unfortunate psychological effect is that female journalists start self-censoring or that they cease their journalistic activities.
Community Updates 2019 Part 2
You will find here all the ideas, discussions and topics that the community created from July to December of 2019 on our weekly Glitter Meetups:
Community Updates 2019 Part 1
You will find here all the ideas, discussions and topics that the community created from January to June of 2019 on our weekly Glitter Meetups:
Community Updates 2018
You will find here all the ideas, discussions and topics that the community created during the 2018 on our weekly Glitter Meetups: