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Jesse Robbins

Jesse Robbins

Free Burma: Military attempts to seize UN hard drives and data

The Times is reporting that the military junta in Burma (aka: Myanmar) is attempting to seize the hard-drives at the UN offices in Rangoon. They're saying that the UN officials initially refused to provide these drives and have been deleting information that could identify members of the opposition.

This is only the latest in a series of actions to identify and target protesters and stop the flow of information out of the country:

Some of the demonstrators have reportedly been arrested after being identified in footage of the rallies. The junta is going after the UN, in the belief that its officials allowed images to be transmitted through their own internet links - channelled via satellite phones and therefore less vulnerable to interference by the authorities.

"It's part of this systematic, repressive response to the demonstrations," said a Western diplomat in Rangoon. “We’ve seen them focus on people who directly participated in the demonstrations by picking them up through the videos Then they’ve arrested people with cameras containing images of the demos. And now they’re trying to track down the means that were used to send them out.”

The very same blog, image, and video feeds documenting the ongoing atrocities in Burma are also being used to commit them. Firewall logs and network captures are being used to find and arrest dissidents. It's not hypothetical, it's not paranoid, it's real... and happening with the technology we've all been building.

A printer thousands of miles away is spewing out lists and pictures to be given to people following orders. Night will fall in a few hours and some geek like "Niknayman", brave enough to post a picture or story, will disappear.

At least we know it's happening. What should we do to fix it?

tags: burma, data, encryption, freedom, myanmar, privacy, security, UN, web2.0  | comments: 9   | Sphere It


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Comments: 9

Dave   [10.11.07 06:46 AM]

We MUST keep up pressure on our government to actually get involved in the crisis. We've shouted and waved a big stick, but its not getting the job done.

We also must make sure that EVERYONE around us pays attention to this story and also calls their representatives in Congress. Let them know that instead of mucking around with a genocide from nearly 100 years ago (the Armenian's in Turkey) that there are TWO happening right now. (Darfur and, while not a genocide a definite injustice, Burma)

And we need to let the media know that we don't give two ***** about Britney Spears, O.J. Simpson, and Paris Hilton. There are more important things in this world than spoiled rich people. Really.

john s   [10.11.07 06:49 AM]

only way to fix it is to get the drives to a real embassy that won't put up with that, one of the Western nations perhaps. Encryption could help for the next event, but for now it's over.

Or setup a satellite unit, but that would be a hanging offense. The military controls the 'net and can shut it down.

Bottom line is there is nothing people on the net can do when bad people are willing to kill to hold onto power. And before everyone goes off, look at Darfur - lots of light and heat, but people still dying, etc. i think the 'net is to some extent a paper tiger when it comes to this.

It seems this generation is more likely to go protest for access to free music versus saving lives.

JamesPage   [10.11.07 09:58 AM]

They should not be storing the info on Hard drives to begin with. With they should be storing it on usb-data keys as they are allot easier to clean of data than a hard disk drive. They should still delete the information from the card and then right garbish over the old information, as I have no idea if delete on a usb data key is a real delete. Also you can chuck a key far faster than a hard disk drive.

Tanvir   [10.11.07 01:56 PM]

Some pick and chose when they want the U.S to get involved. People need to make up their minds. The Buddhist monks remind me of the people of Estonia when they revolted against the Russians in the late 80s, commonly known as the Singing Revolution. I just saw a website about it - (this film is quite inspirational). It takes an incredible amount of courage and will to revolt against a government.

Andy Wong   [10.11.07 04:31 PM]

If Burma military government does not want the world to see what they have been doing, do they have willingness to see what they have been doing? Do they dare to see how the camera caught them? Do they dare to see how the world see them?

Shall we send the pictures and video clips to Burma military government officials by mail, by email and by all means?

They might not feel ashame, but at least we can told them how the world is watching them.

Ken McNamara   [10.11.07 04:48 PM]

For at least 20 years these people have lived under these conditions. The junta has been holding a tiny little woman under house arrest because she has the courage to defy them - they'd like to kill her - but they don't have the nerve with the world watching.

It's sad, our country has the means to hold these thugs responsible for their actions - but not the will. Now we'll put them under sanctions, the people will suffer, the junta will thumb their nose at us and go on using our technology to enslave their own people.

Ullrich   [10.12.07 07:31 PM]

I tell you what we should do to fix it: oppose censorship in our own countries. Germany is going after Tor servers, UK's Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act is forcing people to reveal their passwords, etc.

Living in China, I more and more realize the significance of tools such as Tor (even though using it improperly brings forth problems) and Truecrypt. Such tools advance freedom of press more than hollow political speeches.

But the Western World, officially advocating freedom of press and opinion, now is getting afraid of what once helped to build it. What a pity, what a loss.

Imagine the EC and US setting up large Tor servers, open proxies, and similar information distribution and accessing services. Why not instead of dropping bombs dropping thousands of encrypted satellite phones with cameras such that oppressors could not interfere with communication?

Everyone can setup a Tor server. Do it! Why not start at O'Reily?

Ullrich   [10.12.07 07:34 PM]

Sorry about the masses of newlines in the previous post. The "Preview" didn't show them!

Chaya   [10.17.07 05:40 PM]

Wouldn't anonymizing IPs or providing proxies help stop this? I'm suspecting the main way the Burmese government is doing this is through IP tracing and perhaps reverse packet tracing. (I could be totally wrong here of course, and fortunately I know people smarter than me will certainly correct me!)

I feel like a company like Anonymizer should be offering free use for these sorts of situations. Then again, I am all about people over money, so there is me being naive. A cool project for some tech-minded NGO or just a bunch of worldchanging geeks would be to develop a portable system for providing anonymous, protected methods of internet access for crisis situations.

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