'Each man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world'
-- Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms

'Artists are tricky fellows sir, forever shaping the world according to some design of their own'
-- Jonathan Strange, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Connection - کوننکتیو - صلة

'Liberty has never come from the government.  Liberty has always come from the subjects of it.  The history of liberty is a history of resistance' 
--Woodrow Wilson

'Break up the printing presses and you break up the rebellion'
-- Dudley Nichols

'The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it. Whether that censorship comes from corporations, dictators or acts of God is immaterial' 
--John Gilmore

Farsi reads, 'Zendaaneh Evin', literally, 'Evin Prison', the notorious detention facility 
in Tehran housing so many dissident journalists, student activists, 
intellectuals and lawyers that it has become known as 'Evin University'. 
Picture from the film, 'The Green Wave', 2010, dir. Ali Samadi

A themed set of posters with a retro look for an Iranian campaign against 
enforced hejab (head covering) in November 2009. 
Created by lissnup [http://lissnup.com], a human and civil rights 
campaigner specialising in activist artwork materials. copyright © lissnup.com
The right to freedom of sartorial expression has been most recently highlighted
in the nationwide ban on veils in France. See here for the initial enforcement of the ban.
The proposed Iranian hijab enforcement asserts the rule of religion over the state and is one
of myriad regulations designed to show this: firstly, one is a Muslim. Conversely, 
France's attempts to ban the veil are meant to show the secularisation of state 
and the homogenization or assimilation of religions to the national identity: firstly, one is French.

Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani when asked what puzzled him most about America's 'competition' with al-Qaeda is reported to have replied, 'how has one man in a cave managed to out-communicate the world's greatest communication society?'. Communication has been an essential facet of war, both in the propagation of ideology and the method of prosecution. It has also been the engine of revolution and tyranny. The printing press enabled the Reformation, as it subsequently enabled the Counter-Reformation. The most important element of blitzkrieg was the development of radio communications between vehicles and units. 

But the development of the Net has brought communication to a new era of almost ubiquitous, instantaneous, limitless and free methods of communication and visual propagation. Arguably, the most important global news service is not jazeera or bbc or cnn but youtube. Traditional news networks function from offices in cities and require staff on a payroll, a hierarchical structure, camera crews and mobility. Inside YouTube, every person with a mobile phone across the globe is a potential reporter. 

Politically, the Internet has comprehensively disconnected ideology from geography, as Fiesal Mohamed argues in his The Globe of Villages: 'If we were still shackled to print the cost of delivering al-Qaeda propaganda to East London would be prohibitive, the lack of broad demand would make it a hopeless venture.' The Internet age allows the dissemination of information at a rate orders of magnitude faster than anything previous generations have known. Simultaneously, the Net functions as a medium through which whole systems are run - 98% of Pentagon communications run through civilian Internet channels. The possibility of the medium being employed against any nation was behind the recent Senate committee approval of an 'Internet Kill Switch'

Thus, when one group in antagonism are denied access to the Net by the opposing group, the balance of power becomes irrevocably altered. January 25, 2011 was the date on which the Egyptian government, responding to mass protests in major cities across the country cut off internet and mobile phone access to all domestic traffic. Shervin Pishevar eloquently called it, 'one of the first salvos in a war of electronic munitions'. Chris Arkenberg wrote that'The course of recent events across the Middle East & North Africa have highlighted both the power in organizing & reporting protest movements using network technologies and the weakness inherent in their corporate & state-controlled architectures'. In response to the act, Pishevar, based in the United States, developed OpenMesh, software/firmware for ad hoc wireless networking. OpenMesh is a work in progress. It aims to provide a workable network through mobile routers that connect together creating a mobile network which ensures communication. The second aim is then to allow that network to communicate globally, possibly through access to intermittent satellite internet connections. The attraction of mesh networks is that they avoid path dependencies and vendor lock-in. 

The employment of mobile telecommunications networks to coordinate protest and the understanding of a ruling regime to react by prohibiting mobile or internet access played out in July 2009 in the region of Xinjiang, China where the Uighurs rose up against the Han rulers after a catalytic murder of two Uighurs captured on mobile phone footage. The riots left an estimated 200 Han dead and 1700 injured. Over 1400 Uighurs were arrested. The underlying cause was said to be ostensible prosperity among the Han and poverty among the Uighurs. The authorities gained insight from the coordination of this uprising. In February 2011 when a number of weekly pro-democracy protests were planned across major Chinese cities (termed a Jasmine Revolution, in association with the Tunisian uprising) the government responded with 'elegant censorship', blocking the word 'jasmine' from search queries on many internet networks and Sina Weibo, China's largest microblog. It was rumoured that the government started a number of new twitter accounts with the faces of pro-democracy leaders, and started tweeting comments hostile to the demonstrations.  

anti-censorship software

Freegate is an anti-censorship software for secure and fast Internet access. Freegate works by tapping into an anti-censorship backbone, DynaWeb, DIT's P2P-like proxy network system.
Soon to reject non-China client IPs because of economic dictates. A client software tool, the users will be able to encrypt their Internet traffic and protect themselves from being monitored and access the Internet content that is filtered by state.
GPass is an Internet anti-jamming product widely used to overcome Internet censorship. It effectively protects user privacy and online safety by providing a secure Internet access mechanism. 

UltraSurf is a free software which enables users inside countries with heavy Internet censorship to visit any public web sites in the world safely and freely. Users in countries without internet censorship also use it to protect their internet privacy and security.

FirePhoenix is a virtual private network (VPN) based anti-censorship tool. It is particularly useful to users on a public network or users visiting websites that track visitors. It is critical for users such as journalists and activists working in territories that censor internet use.

The I2P anonymous network ('I2P') is a proxy network aiming at online anonymity. It implements garlic routing, which is an enhancement of Tor's onion routing. I2P is fully distributed and works by encrypting all communications in various layers and relaying them through a network of routers run by volunteers in various locations. By keeping the source of the information hidden, I2P offers censorship resistance. The goals of I2P are to protect users' personal freedom, privacy, and ability to conduct confidential business.  

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis. Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location. Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol.

welcome to the cloud

Wireless grids are wireless computer networks consisting of different types of electronic devices with the ability to share their resources with any other device in the network in an ad-hoc manner. A type of resource-sharing network, connect sensors, mobile phones, and other edge devices with each other and with wired grids. Ad hoc distributed resource sharing allows these devices to offer new resources and locations of use for grid computing. The following key characteristics further clarify this concept:

  • No centralized control
  • Small, low powered devices
  • Heterogeneous applications and interfaces
  • New types of resources like cameras, GPS trackers and sensors
  • Dynamic and unstable users / resources
Incorporate middleware in order to allow disparate devices (GPS, Phone etc) to speak to one another from fixed positions. From wikipedia: Middleware is computer software that connects software components or some people and their applications. The software consists of a set of services that allows multiple processes running on one or more machines to interact. This technology evolved to provide for interoperability in support of the move to coherent distributed architectures, which are most often used to support and simplify complex distributed applications. It includes web servers, application servers, and similar tools that support application development and delivery. Middleware is especially integral to modern information technology based on XML, SOAP, Web services, and service-oriented architecture. Middleware sits "in the middle" between application software that may be working on different operating systems. For the leading application of crowd-sourced cluster computing see World Community Grid.

Localised network of systems working together as a single engine. Only one element within the group needs to be in range of external web for the entire system to thus become 'on-line'. The biggest challenge is to develop mobile-phone based cluster computing. As 'everyone' has a mobile phone, everyone has the potential to become a node in the cluster. Arkenberg is one such voice alive to the possibilities when he writes, 'mobiles can default to a lilly-pad model where voice & data move from phone to phone, hopping across the community through wireless overlaps. The phone becomes the hot-spot and a personal IP address. This allows information to pass from across the mobile meshnet until it reaches an internet uplink, such as a Meraki node. In this manner individuals can still coordinate resources & activities if, say, an earthquake or a dictator has taken mobile carriers & ISP’s offline, and can hop to a strong wireless uplink outside the range of blackout.' Comprehensive article on ad hoc wireless network meshes by Venessa Miemis.

Digital television has opened up huge spare regions of bandwidth that can be employed for wi-fi and other communications.

128-bit encryption


A rootkit is a collection of tools (programs) that enable administrator-level access to a computer or computer network. Typically, installing a rootkit occurs on a computer after first obtaining user-level access, either by exploiting a known vulnerability or cracking a password. Once the rootkit is installed, it allows the attacker to mask intrusion and gain root or privileged access to the computer and, possibly, other machines on the network.
A rootkit may consist of spyware and other programs that: monitor traffic and keystrokes; create a "backdoor" into the system for the hacker's use; alter log files; attack other machines on the network; and alter existing system tools to escape detection.Recent concern has focused on rootkits embedding software that can be utilised in distributed denial of service (ddos) attacks - in effect, your personal computer can have already picked a side in a future cyberwar without you even knowing. DDoS attacks have been utilised by the Anonymous group, unknown sources against 'Anonymous-affliated' website and by unknown sources against the social networking/information site balatarin.com. Freeware for anti-rootkits are available here - they involve deep system scanning across a range of operating systems.

Deep Packet Inspection technology
A firewall is at base a system for that controls network access which have characteristically utilised packet filters, proxies and stateful inspection devices: they work by analysing data packets and achieve partial success. They work by closing the majority of ports to traffic flow. The problem then becomes how to limit the remaining ports to authorized traffic only.  Deep Packet Inspection technology is one method through which data packets can be successfully mined and collated. Since DPI enables internet data mining, eavesdropping, and censorship some advocates of net neutrality fear that the technology can be used anticompetitively or to reduce the openness of the Internet. The ability of DPI to collect information has led many governments (including the United States and the United Kingdom) to pursue classified surveillance and inspection programmes utilising the technology. Iran purchased a piece of DPI architeture from Siemens-Nokia in 2008

Cairo during the uprising against the Mubarak regime. Copyright Scott Nelson/New York Times

For more political comment on Iran, see also, www.enduringamerica.com

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