December 2015 Monthly Report

Thu, 2016-01-21 14:14

In December, the Open Technology Fund continued funding its diverse portfolio of Internet freedom projects and fellows. In calendar year 2015, OTF received nearly 600 requests for funding totaling nearly $50 million. We’re excited to start the new year and look forward to further bolstering support for our projects and tools in their work to increase global Internet freedom.

Notable accomplishments

  • OTF opened applications for the Core Infrastructure Fund, a new sustainable support mechanism for essential ‘building blocks’ of circumvention technology projects such as code libraries, pluggable transports, cryptographic protocols, PGP, SSL, SSH, Tor, and OTR. OTF formed the CIF to meet developers’ needs in this space as they consistently face a severe lack of resources needed for the maintenance and improvement of what is essentially the backbone of the entire Internet ecosystem.
  • Signal, a user-friendly encrypted communication app that provides secure calling and messaging, can now be used on Desktop devices, bringing the same privacy and security of the Signal mobile app to the desktop. The desktop version will sync with a user’s mobile device for a seamless experience across multiple devices. Read more from the Open Whisper Systems announcement here:
  • OTF began soliciting proposals from Information Security professionals and agencies to provide OTF’s supported projects, as well as in-kind projects, with in-depth security assessments based on code review, penetration testing and end-point security in order to improve the overall security of these tools. The full RFP can be read here:
  • The OTF Localization Lab at Transifex now hosts 49 tools/projects with over 4,600 participating volunteers contributing to the submission and verification of over 523,000 translated words into over 200 languages and dialects, as highlighted by The Guardian Project in a blog post about the importance of making privacy and security tools available in as many languages as possible (for as many users in need as possible). The OTF Translation Hub effectively “organizes the chaos” of translating apps and tools through volunteer efforts, making tools available to a greater variety of users worldwide. Read “Good translations are essential to usability” here:
  • ICFP Fellow Will Scott’s Activist.js WordPress was published, with a demo available for viewing here: This tool allows websites, such as media organizations, to help their users access their website by enabling client-side caching, providing for access even if a site’s server is unavailable.
  • Tails, a privacy and anonymity enhancing operating system, released its version 1.8, which features privacy and security improvements such as the integration of the very user-friendly Icedove as the official email client used in Tails. This will further enable non-technical users to utilize Tails.
  • ICFP Fellow Jeffrey Knockel continued his research into keyword lists that trigger censorship and surveillance in popular Chinese social video platforms, following up on research first disclosed in Knockel’s co-authored study, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn: Censorship and Surveillance on Social Video Platforms in China,” which can be read here:
  • OTF is working together with HackerOne on a Tor bug bounty project in order to find and fix security vulnerabilities on the anonymity-enhancing web browser. Computer security experts will dig into the backend of Tor’s infrastructure to identify potential or existent flaws, which can then be patched and fixed.
  • Subgraph, a secure desktop operating system designed for high security use cases and for a simple, user-friendly experience, announced that the Subgraph OS alpha version will be released in March 2016.

Select news collected by OTF from the month of December 2015:

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Psiphon usage surges as Brazil blocks WhatsApp | Psiphon

The Chinese didn’t just hack federal employees. Journalists were swept up in the massive breach, too. | Washington Post

Nigeria’s social media bill follows a trend of African governments keeping tabs on civil society | Quartz

Iran-based hackers may be tracking dissidents and activists, Symantec says | PC World

Charges Against Top Chinese Rights Lawyer Based on Seven Tweets | Radio Free Asia

BlackBerry to exit Pakistan over demand for access to its servers | CBC News

Using Content Delivery Networks to Circumvent The Great Firewall Of China | Techdirt

Kazakhstan Announces Plan to Spy on Encrypted Internet Traffic | Motherboard

Projects Mentioned