Friday, January 28, 2011

Egypt cuts off all Internet, cell access to "ordinary people"; targeting social networks not "enough"; Egypt's Internet very centralized; can it happen here?

The Egyptian government has cut off most Internet and cell phone access to citizens as of late Jan. 27, according to major news sources, such as the Guardian(Charles Arthur, link). This is a much cruder strategy than just blocking specific sites like Facebook and Twitter. But authoritarian regimes may fear TOR and other clever workarounds.  Only the Egyption Noor Group, with access to its stock exchange, seemed to be up.

"Internet Egypt"  was not reachable when I tried it. 

The AP had an interpretation, comparing to China and Iran, and showing the danger of having relatively few centralized providers, on Yahoo! here. It can’t happen in the US, they say. Really?

The curious paradox is that President Mubarak, while running an authoritarian “semi-presidential republic” regime, is relatively moderate on international issues like Israel and that much of his opposition is more radical.
I won’t be seeing the Pyramids immediately.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Mubarak 

Monday, January 24, 2011

All out cyberwar idea pooh-poohed; major incident today at Moscow airport

A story back in 2009 on CBS 60 Minutes, with Jim Lewis and Retired Admiral Mike McConnell, pointed up the concerns over the possibility of “cyberwar”, with intrusions into the power grid and other systems, and widespread corruption of banking systems, by criminal enterprises. The 2009 link on CBS was here.  In 2007, several US government agencies found that several terabytes of data had been lifted, comparable to a major part of the Library of Congress.  And major cyber attacks have affected George, Estonia, and perhaps other former Soviet republics. 

More recently, however, experts have maintained that a risk of cyberwar are not so great as had been thought, as in a NewsTrack India story from London, here. There may be more danger in the long run from space weather, such as coronal mass ejections expected from 2012 to 2014.  This downplay was reported on MSN and AOL last week.

But one of the problems is that proprietary networks and corporate cellular wireless VPN’s, separated from the public Internet as used by most people, are not as immune as we think. One problem is that it is very difficult for government agencies to police the use of USB flash drives and tokens.

Here’s the MSNBC report Monday midday, of a major attack at the Moscow airport, apparently by Islamic extremists, not by Russian mafia.  This story continues to break.



Friday, January 14, 2011

Tunisian uprising, government change abetted by social media

The media has reported today about the protests, curfews, and government change in Tunisia, but the Internet appears to have played a role.

In fact, the Tunisian government reportedly had carried out javascript injection attacks to identify and trackdown online dissent.  Eva Galperin at the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a detailed story, with a recommendation at the end of the article that Facebook break its “one identity instance” rule in authoritarian countries and allow pseudonyms or anonymity.   Protestors have already used Facebook to galvanize political change in other countries like Pakistan, as David Kirkpatrick noted in his book “The Facebook Effect” (Books blog, July 6, 2010). The EFF article is here. The article also considers the value of encryption (https) in protecting web visitors from authoritarian countries, something political bloggers should consider. 

Oiver Queen in Smallviile “Armchair bloggers created a generation of critics rather than leaders”.  Maybe that is changing.

Here is a CNN video on the role of social media in the Tunisian revolt.


Canada passes "draconian" anti-spam legislation

Apparently, Canada is has passed draconian anti-spam legislation, which a Toronto Sun editorial (David Canton) says could affect ordinary press releases and announcements. The link for the story is (website url) here

A site called Slaw has a detailed discussion of the legislation here.

The bill would seem to feed in to the debate on “opt-in” v. “opt-out” that we had in the U.S. around 2004.
Webroot sent out a tweet about this today.

They say, Blame Canada!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Facebook's "one identity instance" model hinders business in Japan

Facebook has made relatively modest inroads into Japan, and, as we know, is still blocked in China. Hiroko Tabuchi covered the progress of the company in Japan in a New York Times story Monday, Jan. 10, “Facebook wins relatively few friends in Japan”, link here.

Japan has several social networking sites, including Mixi and Mobage-town. But Japanese users tend to like to mask their identities or take on new persona, in contrast to Zuckerberg’s model of one “identity” (or one “identity instance” in object-oriented-language talk).

Japanese social networking sites are allowing external companies to develop applications for them, much like Facebook.

But social networking business models need to be ubiquitous, at least through the developed world, to be effective.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fareed Zakaria discusses the dangers of asymmetry in Time essay; Breaking news from Arizona tragedy

Fareed Zakaria has an important essay on p 39 of the Dec. 27, 2010 issue of Time Magazine (The “Person of the Year” issue, although this is about something different). It’s “The Year of Microterrorism”, link (website url) here

Zakaria talks about asymmetry and the “democratization” of technology, and the danger posed by lone actors with soft targets of ordinary people. He writes, “Everywhere, we see that power is shifting from large institutions to motivated individuals. Technology allows people to leverage the weight of these institutions against themselves, producing a jujitsu-like effect.”

I noticed this article while CNN piped the breaking news Saturday afternoon about an incident in Tucson Arizona at a public engagement for Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The story unfolds now and is changing rapidly.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Saudi Arabia builds Dubai-like projects for the Muslim faithful only; how religious fundamentalism can drive up real estate prices, somewhere

The New York Times has run some stories about the construction boom in Saudi Arabia, in Dubai-like coastal cities, and around the hajj site at Mecca and kaaba, where leases on high rises with views are triple and in the hundreds of thousands a year. And, curiously, a replica of London’s Big Ben is being built. It reminds one of the “New York New York” at Vegas, yet selling religion is such big business here. Only Muslims are allowed there, and ordinary non-Muslim journalists cannot cover it directly.


Here’s a story by Jad Mouawad, “The Construction Site Called Saudi Arabia” link here