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August 2016 Monthly Report

| By: Dan McDevitt

In August, the Open Technology Fund continued to both receive a large number of support requests and support a diverse portfolio of Internet freedom projects and fellows. This month, OTF officially announced the inaugural class of its Digital Integrity Fellowship Program while also welcoming the start of OTF-contracted work by several new projects and fellows.

Notable accomplishments

  • OTF announced the launch of the first-ever class of the Digital Integrity Fellowship Program. Working to bolster the digital security knowledge and practices of at-risk human rights organizations and networks, the inaugural DIFP class includes fellows working in Nigeria, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Indonesia, and Colombia. Read more about the fellows and the focus of their work here.

  • Net Alert (previously Threats to Online Freedom) released its first report analyzing privacy and security issues in UC Browser, a popular Chinese web browser. Targeting Chinese users of UC Browser, Net Alert promoted their findings on several Chinese websites and on social media outlets like Weibo, garnering a significant audience from within mainland China. Part of Net Alert’s focus is to present technical research findings in a way that’s more accessible to a mainstream audience such as through visuals and graphics, which you can find here.

  • Tor released Tor Browser 6.0.4, which incorporated an update of OTF-supported NoScript and also included important security updates. You can download Tor Browser 6.0.4 here.

  • DIFP Fellow Natasha Msonza and a Venezuela-based fellow have been utilizing and providing feedback on the organizational security auditing methodology SAFETAG to assess the existing security practices of the organizations they are assisting. Their work promises to provide useful “on-the-ground” feedback to this project, and will help to improve existing resources for digital security assistance that will be beneficial to the internet freedom community as a whole.

  • Censorship detection research platform OONI Project began contracted work for OTF with a focus on making OONI findings more accessible to both researchers and the broader public, as well as ensure that OONI’s work complements other emerging detection projects. OTF first provided support to OONI in 2012 when the project was in its relative infancy, and since that time OONI has evolved from that initial research state into a more thorough censorship research tool - an area of increasing importance. Read more about OTF’s support for OONI here.

  • New ICFP Fellow Daniel Riofrio began OTF-supported work, focusing on censorship and information controls in Ecuador during the country’s upcoming presidential elections. Riofrio will look specifically at groups or individuals at risk of DDoS attacks and collaborating with University of New Mexico researchers to monitor Twitter, a primary social media platform in the country.

  • Security-focused free and open source operating system Qubes released the third release candidate of Qubes version 3.2. You can read more about changes and new features in this latest release candidate version of Qubes here and download both candidate and stable releases of Qubes here.

  • Privacy and anonymity-enhancing operating system Tails released Tails version 2.5, featuring an updated version of Tor and email client Icedove. You can download Tails 2.5 here.

  • The Red Team Lab initiated six new audits that are currently in the pre-engagement or scoping phase. One audit is for the operational security practices of ASL19. The remaining five are code audits for the projects NetKitAid, The Inferno Crypto Library, Olm encryption libraries, CGI Proxy, and the Reporta app.

  • DIFP Fellow Nighat Dad was nominated for the Human Rights Tulip award for her work on raising awareness of digital security and privacy in Pakistan, particularly for marginalized communities including journalists, women, and LGBT groups. The award is given annually by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs for “courageous human rights defenders who promote and support human rights in innovative ways.” See more here.

  • ICFP Fellow Yixin Sun completed her research to strengthen anonymity systems such as the Tor network against powerful Autonomous System (AS)-level adversaries. To do so, Yixin worked with Princeton to build a live BGP monitoring system that checks for suspicious routing changes or updates. The research also included implementation of a new Tor client that incorporates AS resilience into relay selection algorithm, which minimizes the probability of a Tor client being affected by a hijack attack on its guard relay.

    Select news collected by OTF from the month of August2016 - Get the full feed live @OpenTechFund
    The anti-censorship tech inspired by Turkey’s oppressive regime | Daily Dot
    Iran Inaugurates Its Own Intranet | RFE/RL
    The ‘Million Dollar Dissident’ Is a Magnet for Government Spyware | Motherboard
    China launches first [heavily censored] Tibetan-language search engine | Wall Street Journal
    China’s 50 cent army: Leak Shows Glimpse of “Public Sentiment Guidance” Planning | China Digital Times
    How Researchers Exposed Iranian Cyberattacks Against Hundreds of Activists | Motherboard
    China is Turning Its Once Powerful Communist Youth League Into an Online Machine | Global Voices
    Bangladesh Shuts Down the Internet, Then Orders Blocking of 35 News Websites | Global Voices Advocacy
    Kazakh dissidents and lawyers hit by cyber attacks - researchers | Reuters

Projects Mentioned