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ICFP Third Round Wrap-Up - Results and Outcomes

| By: Adam Lynn

Fellows make notable advances in anti-censorship research, tool creation, and more

With the third class of OTF’s Information Controls Fellowship Program (ICFP) having wrapped up their work, we’d like to highlight the fellows and the accomplishments they achieved during their tenure as ICFP fellows.

A diverse group made up of computer scientists, researchers, and software engineers, this class has been hard at work pursuing and completing goals in areas such as: conducting novel research on information controls development around elections, building new tools to bolster existent circumvention systems, and researching security vulnerabilities in popular peer-to-peer communication apps.

You can find below a brief description of each fellow’s area of focus, what they accomplished, and links to related materials where applicable. Over the course of their fellowship, the fellows have presented their findings publicly in the form of reports, papers, presentations, and tool launches.

Serene Han
Host organization: International Computer Science Institute, UC Berkeley
As a second-year senior Information Controls fellow, Serene further the development of the Snowflake circumvention technique. The new method will allow users to easily and reliably connect to censored content from behind a Network Address Translation (NAT) which are very common due to allowing multiple computers to connect to the internet from a single IP address. Serene successfully deployed Snowflake in the Tor Browser and advanced efforts to release it as a standalone circumvention tool.

Geoffrey Alexander
Host organization: Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
As a senior Information Controls fellow, Geoff worked closely with Citizen Lab to investigate malware-enabled espionage operations targeting civil society groups and other security focused research. Geoff’s research can be found in two Citizen Lab reports: Safer Without: Korea’s Child Monitoring & Filtering Apps and INSIDER INFORMATION An intrusion campaign targeting Chinese language news sites.

Grace Mutung’u
Host organization: Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University
Grace performed an analysis of internet freedom during Uganda’s 2016 elections gaining insights on various practices and tactics being employed during the 2017 elections. Grace’s research resulted in two publications: Moving Forward While Looking Back: Freedom Online in Kenya’s 2017 Election and a policy brief on Internet shutdowns and elections in Kenya that resulted from her a working group she led. She also published a post on the OTF blog.

Daniel Riofrio
Host organization: University of New Mexico
Daniel worked with Ecuadorian human rights groups to monitor denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, internet censorship and Twitter activity related to bots and sockpuppets around the 2017 Presidential Election. While the groups experienced minimal DoS attacks, a litany of bots were employed throughout the campaign. The testing probes deployed will continue to be utilized by OONI-Probe. The results of Daniel’s research are summarized in this blog post, with the full research report accessible here.

Claudio Agosti
Host organization: Coding Rights
Claudio advanced understanding around how advertising networks can and are being exploited by malicious actors to serve a malicious script or inject malware. The project investigated numerous methods and environments while creating open tools to encourage further exploration. Coding Rights provided assistance with engaging targeted communities and in promoting awareness of the risks highlighted through this fellowship. The final documentation and research findings were released at the conclusion of the fellowship.

Diego Bravo
Host organization: Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
As a seasonal fellow, Diego worked with Citizen Lab over the summer of 2016 contributing to their security analysis of popular browsers. Many browsers widely used in repressive environments fail to protect their users. Diego also developed and released a tool to analyze an Android application for hardcoded encryption keys.

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The Open Technology Fund (OTF)’s Information Controls Fellowship Program (ICFP) supports examination into how governments in countries, regions, or areas of OTF’s core focus are restricting the free flow of information, impeding access to the open internet, and implementing censorship mechanisms, thereby threatening the ability of global citizens to exercise basic human rights and democracy. The program supports fellows to work within host organizations that are established centers of expertise by offering competitively paid fellowships for three, six, nine, or twelve months in duration.

To learn more about the ICFP, click here.