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Program Update

OTF Announces New Information Controls Fellows

Fellows to research DoS attacks on at-risk groups; develop new circumvention tools; investigate malware-enabled espionage operations; and more

The Open Technology Fund (OTF) has selected six individuals as the newest Information Controls Fellowship Program (ICFP) fellows. The group will focus on advancing research, analysis, and tool development on topics related to internet censorship.

This latest ICFP cohort includes individuals from a variety of disciplines, crossing lines between computer science, legal, policy, technology development, research, and information security. The common thread uniting this diverse group is their focus on the various aspects of information controls, specifically repressive censorship and surveillance.

Unfortunately, given OTF’s declining budget, we were unable to support the same number of individuals as in the first two rounds of the ICFP program - despite receiving nearly 100 applications.

We are excited to welcome the new ICFP fellows and can confirm they’ve hit the ground running, already making exciting progress as they settle in with their host organizations. Be sure to check back for progress updates as our fellows continue working hard to combat internet censorship and surveillance.

The incoming fellows, along with their areas of focus, are:

  • Daniel Riofrio
    Host organization: University of New Mexico
    As a senior Information Controls fellow, Daniel will work closely with Ecuadorian groups to study the characteristics of past denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and mitigate future attacks expected to be employed during the Ecuadorian electoral year to limit participation.

  • Serene Han
    Host organization: International Computer Science Institute, UC Berkeley
    As a second-year senior Information Controls fellow, Serene will work to further develop the Snowflake circumvention technique. The work will focus on deploying Snowflake both as a standalone circumvention tool and integrating it into existing widely used circumvention tools. The new method will allow users to easily and reliably connect from behind Network Address Translation (NAT). By allowing multiple computers to connect to the internet from a single IP address, internet users around the globe can use NATs to access the internet despite censorship and blocked connections.

  • Grace Mutung’u
    Host organization: Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University
    Grace will work to perform an analysis on freedom online during Uganda’s 2016 elections, monitor information controls applied by the Kenyan government during Kenya’s upcoming 2017 elections, and publish reports on both of these topics.

  • Geoffrey Alexander
    Host organization: Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
    As a senior Information Controls fellow, Geoff will work to develop new methods and tools for investigating malware-enabled espionage operations targeting civil society groups. This project will leverage the data resources of Citizen Lab to study malware campaigns and develop automated methods for analyzing, detecting, and tracking both the malware and the command and control infrastructure used to target these at-risk communities.

  • Claudio Agosti
    Host organization: Coding Rights
    Claudio will work over the next year to advance understanding around how advertising networks are being exploited by malicious actors. This project will also provide a deeper understanding of the risks to at-risk populations these networks pose. This project will build on the applicant’s existing work in this area and serve as a critical public resource to both researchers and everyday users. Coding Rights will both put the findings of this research to use and assist in ensuring the accessibility and awareness of the project outcomes.

  • Diego Bravo
    Host organization: Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
    Diego worked with Citizen Lab over the summer to contribute to their security analysis of popular mobile apps. Many mobile apps widely used in repressive environments fail to protect their users. This research helped expose these safety issues and approach the relevant company to fix any vulnerabilities discovered.

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The Open Technology Fund (OTF)’s Information Controls Fellowship Program (ICFP) was jointly established in 2014 with Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto to cultivate research, programs, and creative collaboration focusing on information controls - specifically repressive internet censorship and surveillance. It was modeled after other successful fellowship programs. The ICFP supports fellows to work within host organizations that are established centers of expertise by offering competitively paid fellowships.

To learn more about the ICFP, click here.