[ISN] DefCon: hacking for human rights

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Aug 08 2001 - 01:41:19 PDT

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    [A Defcon story that slipped passed me, not hard with all the DMCA
    stories that were published in the days following DC9.  - WK]
    Tuesday 17th July 2001 
    By: Robert Lemos, ZDNN   
    Hackers are turning their attention to creating anonymous, private
    methods for sending human rights information across the Internet
    Human rights activists put out a call to hackers here to help get the
    word out about their cause -- not by having them deface sites, but by
    creating applications that can help the organisations manage data.
    Greg Walton, a freelance human rights researcher, spoke to hackers at
    the Def Con conference in support of the Hacktivismo project, an
    attempt to create an anonymous, private way of getting human rights
    information across the Internet while protecting the identities of
    those who report the abuses.
    "We are talking about more constructive, more positive ways of dealing
    with human rights abuses," said Walton, who is studying how the
    Chinese government is censoring the Internet for its citizens. "It's
    not ethical to own someone's Web site as a way of getting the message
    Started by the Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc), a group of hackers and
    performance artists, the project's first goal will be to finish an
    application known as Peekabooty, which will form the infrastructure of
    such a private network. Though the cDc originally expected to release
    the software at Def Con, which concluded Sunday, unresolved technical
    problems have put the project on hold.
    While the number of people that are prevented from speaking about
    human rights abuses cannot be quantified, the need for such an
    application is great, said Patrick Ball, deputy director of the
    American Association for the Advancement of Science's Science and
    Human Rights programme.
    Potential human rights informants "know that governments monitor the
    Internet, so in many cases they won't send e-mail to report abuse," he
    said. Ball also called for hackers to produce easier-to-use code to
    protect privacy.
    Referring to his own project cataloging human rights abuses, Ball said
    that a way of storing information on the individual incidents is also
    Using a simple database, Ball and his colleagues were able to track
    the war crimes in Bosnia, Haiti and other trouble spots. The group
    also kept track of the people commanding the forces that committed the
    crimes and presented summaries of the data to the respective
    peacekeeping forces.
    "We didn't get the (commanders) put in prison, but we did get them
    taken out of positions of power," he said, referring to the results of
    posting statistics in public places in Bosnia.
    Hackers in the United States and other countries where abuses are
    infrequent should not be complacent, Ball stressed. Technology like
    Peekabooty could help prevent the censorship of all sorts of
    "What if you write a piece of code that someone doesn't like?" he
    asked, making a veiled reference to the DeCSS case in which the movie
    industry has successfully prosecuted Web sites that have posted the
    DVD-decrypting code.
    These types of incidents should convince hackers that censorship
    affects everyone, he said. "It's time to support your own community."
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