Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Myanmar Knows Not to Censor. Do You?

Myanmar, Burma, Hate Speech, Panzagar, Nay Phone Latt, No-Hate Speech Project, SumRando Cybersecurity, VPN, Messenger Democratic reforms in a country previously under repressive military rule are typically viewed in a positive light, but what happens when bad comes with good?

Such is the dilemma faced by Myanmar today, a country that has seen the lifting of harsh censorship laws coupled with increased access to the internet lead to a proliferation of hate speech, especially that targeted towards the Rohingya and other Muslims in this majority Buddhist nation.

A country that has recently experienced the detrimental effects of censorship knows not to simply return to silencing its citizens as a solution. Instead, Myanmar has found its answer in a clever alternative: dialogue.

Since 2014, Panzagar (“Flower Speech”) has empowered Myanmar’s Facebook users to respond to harmful language with friendly stickers that offer comments such as “Think before you share” and “Don’t spread the hate, alright?” The project was founded by blogger Nay Phone Latt who was jailed in 2007 for sharing information regarding anti-government protesting and released 5 years later.

Ever the free speech advocate, Nay Phone Latt previously reported, “I don’t want to ask the government to control hate speech because if they control the hate speech, they will want to control all [opinions]. So it can harm freedom of expression. I prefer to monitor hate speech and report about that than limiting it through law.”

More recently, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) has joined the effort to counter hate speech with a year-long project aimed at promoting tolerance by monitoring public comments, engaging with contributors of misinformation and sharing its findings. The No-Hate Speech Project maintains a commitment to both challenging hate speech and defending freedom of expression.

Noted IWPR Asia Director Alan Davis, “The essential challenge facing Burma is how to protect and defend things without going on the offensive and attacking and inciting violence against others. Consequently, our project is all about our belief that the more information and education and debate is encouraged and shared respectfully, the more we can all reduce the influence and impact of hate speech.

“The training emphasized that we stand against any forms of censorship and that the views of nationalist Buddhist groups like Ma Ba Tha and the activist monk Wirathu have a full right to be heard—and we will even seek to try and engage with them as part of this project. If the anti-Muslim hate speech of Ma Ba Tha comes from a fear of the future and a belief in the need to protect Buddhist Bamar culture, identity and traditions, let us get it all out in the open to discuss it fairly and respectfully.”

A world often afraid of its citizen’s voices has much to learn from the approaches taken by Panzagar and IWPR in Myanmar. Freedom of speech—especially following years of silence—can be messy, ugly and uncomfortable for all, but it is the dialogue that it brings that is absolutely necessary to achieve a lasting peace.

Censorship is not the answer.

SumRando Cybersecurity is a Mauritius-based VPN, Web Proxy and Secure Messenger provider. Surf secure and stay Rando!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Report Lists 91 Countries Requesting Facebook Account Data and Content Restrictions

Have you seen your Facebook page lately? The photos from your best friend’s wedding, where you were last night and even your phone number?

Facebook routinely grants government requests to access private pages and restricts content based on local laws. The social networking site recently released a breakdown of all activity worldwide from July to December 2015. Highlights include:

Facebook, privacy, censorship, WhatsApp, SumRando Cybersecurity
[Source: Keri J]

United States (19,235)
India (5,561)
United Kingdom (4,190)
Germany (3,140)
France (2,711)
Brazil (1,655)
Italy (1,525)
Argentina (892)
Australia (802)
Poland (611)

United States (30,041)
India (7,018)
United Kingdom (5,478)
Germany (3,628)
France (2,894)
Brazil (2,673)
Italy (2,598)
Argentina (1,047)
Spain (947)
Australia (846)

Nigeria (100%)
Croatia (90.91%)
Sweden (87.31%)
Turkey (84.20%)
United Kingdom (82.15%)
Serbia (81.48%)
United States (81.41%)
Albania (80.00%)
United Arab Emirates (80.00%)
Canada (79.63%)

France (37,695)
India (14,971)
Turkey (2,078)
Germany (366)
Israel (236)
Austria (231)
United Kingdom (97)
Russia (56)
Brazil (34)
Kazakhstan (25)

The complete listing of all 91 countries with user data requests and content restrictions in the second half of 2015 can be found at, along with all reports dating back to 2013.

According to Facebook, government requests typically are prompted by criminal investigations and ask for basic subscriber information including name, registration date and length of service; account content; and/or IP address logs. Content restrictions occur when governments ask Facebook to remove content that would not be allowed under local law.

So, the next time you’re on Facebook (or even the Facebook-owned, metadata collecting WhatsApp), make sure that everything there is information you would be willing to share with your government. After all, sometimes even the most innocent of “criminals” can find themselves under government surveillance.

SumRando Cybersecurity is a Mauritius-based VPN, Web Proxy and Secure Messenger provider. Surf secure and stay Rando!

Friday, 6 May 2016

World Press Freedom Day 2016 Highlights What Journalism Needs

World Press Freedom Day 2016, journalism, encryption, legislation, SumRando VPN, SumRando Messenger
[Source: Mstyslav Chernov]
We need good journalists.

Those four words, shared by Finland Prime Minister Juha Sipila, summarize two days of keynote addresses and plenary sessions at this year’s World Press Freedom Day celebration in Helsinki.

Each year the event serves as an opportunity to promote a free and open press; to acknowledge the ways in which it is not; and to recognize those journalists whose lives have been lost. This year, a host of speakers and panelists from around the world offered insight regarding the current state of press freedom that does not always make it into mainstream media:

Policies and laws that prohibit encryption and weaken digital security tools will only threaten the safety of journalists. Good journalism relies on the ability to keep sources, research and whistleblowers confidential. Encryption is a necessity, not an option.

Western technologies and laws currently have the power to negatively impact the safety and security of journalists elsewhere. According to European Parliament member Marietje Schaake, surveillance technologies developed in Europe under the assumption of certain rules and regulations are frequently exported to countries where a lack of rule of law only enables the targeting and surveillance of journalists.  

There is a need to pass and better implement protective legislation.
Only 108 countries today have right to information laws. The last 25 years have seen an increase in legislation in countries beyond the Western world, yet implementation of such legislation remains problematic everywhere. Edetaen Ojo, executive director of Nigeria’s Media Rights Agenda, noted that laws in Africa are frequently adopted as a condition of receiving aid and therefore often exist in theory rather than in practice.

Journalism everywhere would benefit from more in-country trainings. The success and livelihood of journalists depend upon understanding one’s rights. Given that laws and policies can vary widely from country to country, state to state and region to region and also that many governments take it upon themselves to block the very information that would be most useful, in-person trainings provide a much-needed space for journalists to receive and share information and methods, argued Neela Banerjee, a journalist with Inside Climate News. Speakers at Wednesday’s “Promoting Freedom of Expression in the Arab Region” seminar expressed a further need for training in countries such as Syria, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon and South Sudan, where a lack of education combined with access to social media has contributed to the use of hate speech and the incitement of violence.

Public perception of the persecution of journalists must change. Christiane Amanpour, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Freedom of Expression and Journalist Safety, pointed out that in the majority of countries where journalists are imprisoned, the average citizen believes such punishment is just and deserved. A change in repressive government treatment of journalists will only come when non-journalist citizens believe that participating in a free and open media is not a crime.

For individuals accustomed to dictatorship, learning to freely express oneself takes time. Change is possible, but it cannot be expected to happen immediately, noted Albana Shala, chair of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication. In sharing her own experience of transitioning from living under dictatorship in Albania to democracy in the Netherlands, she said: “I’ve learned to use my right for freedom of expression and to seek information. For people who have been living in a dictatorship, it takes time for them to learn to how to breathe freely, how to speak freely, how to think freely. That is also reflected sometimes in the way we do things in life. For example, instead of seeking information through the front door, going through the back door, or instead of talking directly, talking indirectly because of the fear of being persecuted. These are things that stay with us, and these are rights that we are born with, but we are not aware of. And that is the state of the world.”

The world needs good journalists. As World Press Freedom Day 2016 concludes, let’s remember that freedom of expression and journalism trainings—not censorship—will produce the journalists that the world so desperately needs.

SumRando Cybersecurity is a Mauritius-based VPN, Web Proxy and Secure Messenger provider. Surf secure and stay Rando!

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

It’s a Vulnerable World: April 2016

It's a Vulnerable World, Vulnerability, SumRando VPN, SumRando Secure Messenger
If 2015 was the year the world became aware of just how dangerous cyber breaches can be, this past month proved that there is still work to be done in terms of prevention. Not only did an attack in the Philippines make last year’s OPM breach of 20 million personal records look like a minor leak, but governments have continued to fight against the one technology that keeps us all safe: encryption.

Philippine voters: If you thought the data breach of the United States Office of Personnel Management was bad, now there has been an attack more than twice its size: the personal information of 55 million registered voters in the Philippines was leaked in a recent hack of the Philippine Commission on Elections database.

China’s Great Firewall: Even the father of China’s Firewall knows that sometimes the best form of censorship is no censorship at all: during a recent talk at Harbin Institute of Technology, Fang Binxing turned to a VPN to access a website that otherwise would have been inaccessible.

WhatsApp spam filters and antivirus protection: WhatsApp just became more secure with the addition of end-to-end encryption. However, this added layer of protection also means that no filter will be available to stop spam messages or malicious links from landing in your inbox.

Blackberry Messenger: Vice News recently reported that Canada’s federal government accessed more than one million encrypted BlackBerry messages during a 2010-2012 investigation. What remains unclear is whether the master encryption key has since been changed, and to what extent the Canadian government continues to intercept messages.

Internet of Things: Beware of the latest advancements in cars, refrigerators and thermostats: Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Stuart Madnick warned that the Internet of Things has grown no safer, despite its burgeoning popularity: “Part of the issue is the IoTs are so new, and there are so many challenges for the good guys in terms of trying to get them to work at all, that thinking really hard about cybersecurity is extremely difficult to factor into that.”

Kenyan government: Hacktivist group Anonymous has leaked data, including sensitive emails and letters, from the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs database. The act is a form of protest against the Kenyan government’s “corruption, child abuse and child labor."

Corporate offices: First there was phishing and now there is whaling. Increasingly, hackers are posing as corporate executives in order to ask employees to transfer money and send secure documents. Steve Malone of Mimecast reported on just how hard these threats are to detect: “There’s no way to spy that as bad. The content is human-written so a spam filter won’t pick it up and it’s hard to detect because there are no links or attachments.”

Hospital health records: Electronic health records have become yet another target for ransomware, largely because hospitals frequently lack the financial resources and cyber-awareness needed to guard against such attacks.

United States government employees: Not only did the FBI successfully unlock the much-scrutinized San Bernardino iPhone without Apple’s help, but Chinese hackers thanked the bureau for doing so. Fruit baskets, flowers and chocolates were delivered to United States government employees out of gratitude for making the world less secure: “Actually, the baskets and flowers that are coming into the office, those are pretty nice. I mean, yeah, what they symbolize is not great, but say what you will about semi-state-sanctioned hacking outfits in China, they really do have excellent taste in gift baskets. It’s the baskets that came directly to my house that were addressed to my wife and kids. Those were creepy, especially because they were so on point,” reported one gift recipient. 
Encryption: A discussion draft of the United States’ Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016 argues that, “To uphold both the rule of law and protect the interests and security of the United States, all persons receiving an authorized judicial order for information or data must provide, in a timely manner, responsive, intelligible information or data, or appropriate technical assistance to obtain such information or data.” In other words, if this Feinstein-Burr bill passes, companies will be required to break their own encryption.
 Surf secure and stay Rando!

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SumRando Cybersecurity is a Mauritius-based VPN, Web Proxy and Secure Messenger provider.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

It’s a Vulnerable World: Panama Papers Edition

Panama Papers, SumRando Cybersecurity, VPN, Secure Messenger, Web ProxyApril 2016 kicked off with the largest data leak in history: 11.5 million documents from the database of offshore Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. These “Panama Papers” have since disclosed the many ways wealthy individuals from around the world hide money and evade taxes, both legally and illegally. 

In the last month, politicians have stepped down, newspaper editors have been fired and countless investigations have begun. As we wait to see exactly what comes of the Panama Papers, what’s clear is that the leak has already shed much-needed light on many behind-the-scenes practices.

Because of the Panama Papers, concerns have been raised, voices have been heard and action has been taken:

  • In Pakistan, opposition politician Imran Khan has responded to the Panama Papers leak by demanding a more thorough investigation of the role played by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children, who were cited as owning three offshore holding companies. Sharif stands by his innocence and has agreed to step down if a Supreme Court commission finds any wrongdoing. The government, in turn, questions the motives of those protesting Sharif: “Imran is just really desperate for any kind of shortcut to becoming prime minister and with these leaks he thinks he’s hit the jackpot,” critiqued a Pakistani minister.
  • Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa boasted in a tweet, “They spent almost a year looking for something against the Ecuadorian government and found nothing”—only to shortly thereafter learn that the Papers do in fact reference a 2012 investigation that involved both Correa and his brother, Fabricio. A presidential adviser has since refuted the claim: “The president is a very honest person. This is all absolutely false. And he’s not involved in any offshore company directly or indirectly.”
  • In Iceland, Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson did not resign, but did step aside indefinitely in response to revelations of a private offshore company set up by he and his wife. More recently, Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson has been found to have an offshore account, despite his claims otherwise.
  • In Kazakhstan, President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his family have been implicated by the Panama Papers, but the general prosecutor has decided not to pursue an investigation, claiming a lack of “reliable information.” 
  • Approximately 500 well-known Indians have been cited in the Panama Papers. Some, like actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, question the legitimacy of the report, but are willing to comply with the ensuing investigation. For others, judgement day has already arrived: India issued a warrant for the arrest of ex-billionaire and corrupt businessman Vijay Mallya and then revoked his passport as well.
  • In Hong Kong, the Panama Papers have only revealed how precarious the state of free speech is. Ming Pao chief editor Keung Kwok-yuen was fired following his decision to feature Panama Paper information on the newspaper’s front page. The paper maintains the decision was merely in the interest of saving costs.
  • Jose Manuel Soria, Spain’s minister of industry, energy and tourism, resigned once information was revealed linking him to a Jersey-based offshore company. He has not been officially charged with a crime.

SumRando applauds the transparency and dialogue brought by the Panama Papers, especially for those countries whose concerns too often remain unsaid and unchecked.

Want the latest freedom of speech and cybersecurity news from around the world? Read on!

SumRando Cybersecurity is a Mauritius-based VPNWeb Proxy and Secure Messenger provider. Surf secure and stay Rando!