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Yemeni War Emphasizes Importance of Internet Control in Statecraft and Conflict
Recorded Future looks at the role of information controls and internet access in Yemen amid the country's ongoing conflict, and how the tactics at play there are part of a broader, worldwide trend of states "manipulating the internet access of their citizens." In Yemen, Recorded Future says, "...factions vie for control of internet infrastructure and use clever threat vectors in a few ways to control information entering and leaving their territories. The severing of or restrictions on internet use has become a norm in a wider trend of internet restrictions or blackout activity."

Drawing from additional recent examples of internet censorship and shutdowns in Venezuela, Bangladesh, India, and Sudan, Recorded Future notes the rising trend of internet censorship and its downsides: "Censorship at these levels is not limited to the countries above, but internet control has become a tool being used more and more by countries as part of their statecraft. Government censorship is not a new trend, but outside parties are increasingly reporting on such incidents. States that implement such measures take a risk — they may maintain control over their populations, but these actions will also likely be detrimental to their domestic economies and stifle business opportunities. Countries that implement digital censorship tend to slow their own technological growth and business innovation."
yemen  censorship  mena  control  research 
5 days ago by dmcdev
In the Middle East, a booming market for spy technology - @JennaMC_Laugh
"The Middle East has long been home to autocratic governments seeking for ways to assure domestic stability. But what has changed, particularly after the wave of Arab Spring protests in 2011, is how they are seeking to prevent what they perceive to be threatening dissent. Countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and others are buying up increasingly sophisticated computer equipment and expertise to help monitor and control the flow of information in their societies." - Jenna McLaughlin, Yahoo! News
otf  mena  surveillance  digisec  awareness 
11 days ago by dmcdev
Egypt: Activists, government critics hit by wave of digital attacks
"An investigation by Amnesty International has revealed that dozens of Egyptian human rights defenders have been targeted by phishing attacks since the beginning of this year, putting them in grave danger amid Abdelfattah al-Sisi’s government’s intensifying crackdown on dissent. Since January 2019 Amnesty Tech has analyzed dozens of suspicious emails sent to Egyptian human rights defenders, journalists and NGOs. The organization found that the emails used a technique known as OAuth Phishing to gain access to private accounts, and that attacks spiked during key political moments such as the anniversary of Egypt’s uprising on 25 January.

'These digital attacks appear to be part of a sustained campaign to intimidate and silence critics of the Egyptian government. Over the past year Egyptian human rights defenders have faced an unprecedented assault from the authorities, risking arrest and imprisonment whenever they speak out, and these chilling attempts to target them online pose yet another threat to their vital work,' said Ramy Raoof, Tactical Technologist at Amnesty Tech."
otf  egypt  mena  phishing  awareness  digisec 
13 days ago by dmcdev
Rouhani's Comments On Hijab, Censorship Draw Ire Of Ayatollahs
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said last week that "neither blocking nor filtering leads us to where we wish to be," Radio Farda reports:

"President Hassan Rouhani is under fire from two Grand Ayatollahs angered by his recent comments on Iran’s policies of compulsory hijab and Internet filtering. Speaking at a meeting with the Minster of Communications and Information Technology January 21, Rouhani reportedly remarked, 'Regarding hijab, the Koran addresses men first, forbidding them to look at women in lecherous ways; but, sadly, we go after women and girls, and arrest them for their [improper] hijab'...He had also criticized the absence of independent media in the country, lambasting the state controlled outlets. Rouhani went on to criticize Iran’s policy of blocking and filtering certain social media networks and websites, saying, 'Modern technologies have many advantages and limited risks, and we cannot separate people’s lives from developments in technology and communications… We should acknowledge that we have been wrong. Neither blocking nor filtering leads us to where we wish to be.'"

+ Iran’s looming Instagram ban shows hardliner disconnect - Asia Times http://www.atimes.com/article/irans-looming-instagram-ban-shows-hardliner-disconnect/
otf  iran  mena  instagram  social  access  censorship  block 
7 weeks ago by dmcdev
New @BKCHarvard report: Internet Censorship and the Intraregional Geopolitical Conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa
"This report investigates how adversarial relationships between states in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) translate into Internet censorship practices. Based on analysis of Internet censorship data collected from 16 countries, the study finds that it is becoming increasingly common for governments in the MENA region to block content that originates from or is affiliated with rival states in the region. The study finds that blocked content often contains messaging that opposes the censoring government’s own narrative of the conflicts, and that governments block content that could potentially spark internal dissent. For example, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt block Iranian websites that promote Iran’s official narrative on local and foreign policies and that are critical of Saudi policies towards Iran and the region. On the other side of the conflict, Iran blocks content originating from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, and Egypt." - Helmi Noman, Berkman Klein Center. The full report is available on Berkman's Internet Monitor blog here. https://thenetmonitor.org/bulletins/internet-censorship-and-the-intraregional-geopolitical-conflicts-in-the-middle-east-and-north-africa
otf  mena  berkman  research  censorship 
8 weeks ago by dmcdev
Iran Extends Social Media Crackdown With Move to Bar Instagram
"Authorities in Iran are preparing to block access to Instagram, extending their crackdown on social media to the only major platform still freely available. The National Cyberspace Council approved steps toward blocking the service, Javad Javidnia, deputy for cyberspace affairs at the public prosecutor’s office, was cited as saying by the semi-official Donya-e Eqtesad newspaper. Instagram would join Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Telegram in being banned in the Islamic Republic, ostensibly for reasons of national security." - Golnar Motevalli, Bloomberg

+ Current ICFP fellow Mahsa Alimardani spoke with PRI about Iran's plans to block Instagram. Listen to the interview here: https://www.pri.org/file/2019-01-03/social-media-crackdown-iran-continues Mahsa has been tracking the issue and laid out the potential block in context on this Twitter thread, explaining what led to the court order to filter Instagram. https://twitter.com/maasalan/status/1080446263387144192
otf  iran  icfp  social  instagram  block  access  mena 
10 weeks ago by dmcdev
When Best Practice Isn’t Good Enough: Large Campaigns of Phishing Attacks in Middle East and North Africa Target Privacy-Conscious Users
A new report from Amnesty International details how hackers have been able to successfully phish "hundreds of Google and Yahoo" email accounts in a campaign focusing on users in the MENA region. Users of email providers Tutanota and ProtonMail were also targeted in another campaign.

Motherboard reports: "If you’re an at risk user, that extra two-factor security code sent to your phone may not be enough to protect your email account. Hackers can bypass these protections, as we’ve seen with leaked NSA documents on how Russian hackers targeted US voting infrastructure companies. But a new Amnesty International report gives more insight into how some hackers break into Gmail and Yahoo accounts at scale, even those with two-factor authentication (2FA) enabled. They do this by automating the entire process, with a phishing page not only asking a victim for their password, but triggering a 2FA code that is sent to the target’s phone. That code is also phished, and then entered into the legitimate site so the hacker can login and steal the account. The news acts as a reminder that although 2FA is generally a good idea, hackers can still phish certain forms of 2FA, such as those that send a code or token over text message, with some users likely needing to switch to a more robust method."

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/bje3kw/how-hackers-bypass-gmail-two-factor-authentication-2fa-yahoo

+ Certfa last week published a report on "the latest wave of organized phishing attacks by Iranian state-backed hackers," with targets including "individuals who are involved in economic and military sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as politicians, civil and human rights activists and journalists around the world." https://blog.certfa.com/posts/the-return-of-the-charming-kitten/
otf  iran  hacking  2fa  security  email  mena  activist  hrd 
12 weeks ago by dmcdev
Why Did Telegram Warn Users That Iranian Versions of the Telegram App—Talaeii and Hotgram—Are “Unsafe”? – @ICHRI
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) "welcomes" a recent move by Telegram to issue a warning to Iran-based users connecting to the messaging app through "client apps" like Talaeii and Hotgram, which security experts have long called insecure and "unsafe."

"Warning! The app you are using was not made by Telegram and is unsafe. We can only guarantee your safety if you use official Telegram apps,” said a message [https://twitter.com/ICHRI/status/1073944138721185793] that appeared when users first logged on to the apps on December 15, 2018. The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) welcomes this move by Telegram. Five months before the company issued the warning, and again a week before the advisory was issued, CHRI had reached out to Telegram urging it to inform users that the Iranian government can access and monitor private user activities on the modified Telegram Talaeii and Hotgram apps."
otf  iran  telegram  mena  security 
december 2018 by dmcdev
Iran To Tighten Grip On Cyberspace, Messaging Apps
"Some 95 members of Iran's parliament (Majles), including 22 prominent reformists, have tabled a motion on Sunday December 2 that would tighten Iranian government's grip on domestic and foreign messaging services. The reformists have been harshly criticized on social media for the move. The bill is to be annexed to article 67 of Iran's sixth development plan that is generally about what Iran calls the National Information Network, an intranet that would limit Iranians' access to the global Internet network." - Radio Farda
otf  iran  mena  messaging  apps  policy  legislation 
december 2018 by dmcdev
Identities in the crosshairs—censoring LGBTQ internet content around the world
Citizen Lab researchers write on how Canadian company Netsweeper provides repressive regimes throughout the Middle East with the technology to censor LGBTQ content, following on an April 2018 report published the topic: https://citizenlab.ca/2018/04/planet-netsweeper/ :
"Netsweeper’s filtering technology is often used to limit and block access to certain websites that might be deemed inappropriate. In schools, it could be used to block access to pornography; in offices, it could be used to limit employee access to social media. But in the hands of authoritarian governments that control the Internet capabilities of an entire country, the technology becomes altogether more disturbing."
otf  netsweeper  citizenlab  canada  mena  LGBT  gay  humanrights  censorship  access 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Online censorship in Saudi Arabia soared after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder: @CensoredPlanet
"The number of websites being censored in Saudi Arabia doubled a couple of weeks after Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the country’s consulate in Istanbul, according to an initiative that tracks internet censorship. While the increased censorship is not surprising, the results show how skillful automated tracking has become at sniffing out repression. Roya Ensafi, who leads the Censored Planet project, says it detected the sharp increase in censorship activity when it ran an automated scan on October 16. That was the day after Saudi and Turkish officials had conducted a joint inspection of the consulate, which Khashoggi entered a couple of weeks earlier to get a marriage license...She says the October scan showed that foreign news services such as Fox News, the Los Angeles Times, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation were suddenly being blocked. Although the interference has since diminished for some sites, access to the Times’ website and arabnews.com, an English-language daily in Saudi Arabia, is still being restricted." - Martin Giles, MIT Technology Review
otf  censorship  access  block  Saudi  saudiarabia  mena 
november 2018 by dmcdev
How Twitter endangered a Saudi activist after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
"Twitter, the platform that once saved my life, is now putting it in danger. The events in the weeks following Jamal Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul showed that the lives of other journalists and activists are also at risk. Seven years after Twitter saved me, I recently made the choice to delete my Twitter account...Twitter has became full of harassment, death threats, intimidation and false news for us who have chosen to speak out in the Arab world. Twitter has not enacted any real change in making Twitter safer for us, which has pushed so many I know to quit the platform. Still, I continued to voice my views there. I believed that those governments should be the ones to be afraid, not us. I believed that I finally had a voice, and that I should use it." - Manal al-Sharif for the Washington Post
saudiarabia  twitter  social  speech  safety  mena  foe 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Iran Poised to Allow Military Full Control Over Internet, Messaging Apps
"After repeated denials by Iranian officials about the existence of a bill that would allow an elite branch of the Iranian army to control and monitor all internet content, activities and messaging apps in the country, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has obtained a copy of the pending legislation. Allowing the General Staff of the Armed Forces (GSAF)—which operates under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and is directed by a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—to control the country’s internet infrastructure would put millions of Iranians at risk of prosecution for various online activities including accessing content on a banned social media app." - Center for Human Rights in Iran
otf  iran  mena  surveillance  privacy  social  messaging 
november 2018 by dmcdev
BGP attacks hijack Telegram traffic in Iran
"Researchers have uncovered a string of campaigns against Telegram and Instagram users including the hijack of traffic through the BGP protocol. The threat actors behind the attacks -- whether state-sponsored or otherwise -- are focusing exclusively on citizens of Iran that use either the encrypted messaging app or image-sharing service...According to the Cisco Talos cybersecurity team, the campaigns have been active since 2017 and are ongoing against roughly 40 million Telegram users in the country -- despite the app being banned in Iran -- at the least."
otf  iran  bgp  routing  mena 
november 2018 by dmcdev
Saudis’ Image Makers: A Troll Army and a Twitter Insider
Incoming ICFP fellow Alexei Abrahams [https://www.opentech.fund/about/people/alexei-abrahams/] was quoted in this New York Times piece on the Saudi Arabian government's efforts to slant discussions and silence critical voices on Twitter.

From the article:

"Yet the government’s social media manipulation tracks with crackdowns in recent years in other authoritarian states, said Alexei Abrahams, a research fellow at Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.

Even for conversations involving millions of tweets, a few hundred or a few thousand influential accounts drive the discussion, he said, citing new research. The Saudi government appears to have realized this and tried to take control of the conversation, he added.

'From the regime’s point of view,' he said, 'if there are only a few thousand accounts driving the discourse, you can just buy or threaten the activists, and that significantly shapes the conversation.'"
otf  saudiarabia  mena  twitter  social  misinformation  disinfo 
october 2018 by dmcdev
Will Syria follow in the UAE's footsteps and censor VoIP services?
"On October 17, the Syrian Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced that it may soon begin blocking voice and video calls on WhatsApp and other Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. The TRA said it would do this to increase revenues in the telecommunications industry, according to a Al-Watan, a newspaper linked to the Syrian regime. The regulator's general-director Ibaa Oueichek complained that VoIP 'lowers the return on investment for [telecommunications] companies and reduces their incentive to make new investments to improve the network and offer better services for a lower price.' Like other governments in the region, and in sub-Saharan Africa, the promise of increased revenues for locally administrated telecommunications companies is attractive, despite the burdens it would place on citizens. If implemented, such a ban would increase the already-high costs of communication in the country and decrease flows of information. It would also present a threat to Syrians’ rights to privacy and would likely lead to greater self-censorship in the country."
otf  mena  syria  uae  voip  censorship  access  communication 
october 2018 by dmcdev
The Kingdom’s Hackers and Bots: how Saudi Arabia uses cutting-edge technology to track dissidents and stifle dissent
"According to experts who study Riyadh’s use of digital surveillance and propaganda, Saudi Arabia has deployed both spyware against critics of the regime and Twitter bots as part of its effort to maintain its grip on power, monitor dissident voices, and control its domestic public sphere. One of the Saudis apparently knowledgeable in the use of surveillance software, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, has been described as an official close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Mutreb also appears to have played a role in [journalist Jamal] Khashoggi’s death, according to evidence compiled by Turkish authorities. He was spotted entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul shortly before Khashoggi. According to emails published by WikiLeaks in 2015, Mutreb and other Saudi officials were due to receive training in the use of spyware similar to what the Israeli firm NSO markets from the Italian company Hacking Team...Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab, said Saudi Arabia has deployed Pegasus in a large number of countries, including Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, France, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. 'It is possible that the Saudis were using it pretty recklessly,' he said. Riyadh has also deployed a sizable bot army to control the online narrative and drown out criticism of the regime."
otf  saudiarabia  mena  twitter  social  bots  misinformation  hack  nsogroup  surveillance 
october 2018 by dmcdev
In Iran, state-sanctioned messaging apps are the new hallmark of internet nationalization
"The rapid rise of Telegram, Iran's most popular mobile messaging service, appears to have reached a tipping point in the country. After years of cautious observation and manipulation of Telegram's features to its own benefit, Iranian authorities are now putting both political will and money behind the development of 'national' messaging and social media services. And since the Iranian judiciary moved to censor Telegram at the end of April 2018, a series of policy reforms have drastically changed online controls in Iran. Far from its (self-promoted) image as progressive, the Iranian government’s new censorship techniques are 'porous' rather than free. While publicly rejecting censorship of Telegram in rhetoric, government leaders have quietly promoted 'national' messaging services, making it increasingly necessary for Iranians to use communication channels under the control of authorities."

Read the full Article 19 report, "Tightening the net: The internet in the time of currency crisis," here: https://www.article19.org/resources/tightening-the-net-the-internet-in-the-time-of-currency-crisis/
otf  iran  mena  telegram  messaging 
october 2018 by dmcdev
Publication: The Middle East Digital Humanities Digest
This blog is created and managed by the American University in Cairo library's Digital Humanities Program. It is conceived as an open space for digital humanists, librarians, scholars, and researchers working in or on Egypt and the Middle East to share their respective projects and discuss any ideas and tools regarding digital humanities. Please feel free to subscribe, post and share the link of the blog with all interested digital humanists, librarians, scholars, and researchers.
dh  foreign_language  forgrads  forlibrarians  for_undergrads  Middle_East  MENA 
october 2018 by asandersgarcia

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