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OTF Monthly Report for August 2015

| By: Dan McDevitt

OTF-supported technology now reaches over 975 million Internet users worldwide.

In FY 2015, OTF has so far received nearly 300 submissions from projects and fellows seeking support. OTF-supported technology now reaches over 975 million Internet users worldwide.

Notable accomplishments

  • Information Controls Fellow Tony Espinoza began his research reverse engineering the popular mobile chat application Line, investigating censorship events on the app. So far, Espinoza has discovered a previously undiscovered list of keywords although its use is not yet known. Focusing on programs used by at-risk populations, he is also investigating programs that use cryptography and whether they are being used correctly and as fully as claimed.

  • The Tor team made three sets of releases for the Tor Browser during the month of August: 5.0/5.5a1, 5.0.1, and 5.0.2/5.5a2. The new releases featured important security updates to Firefox, updated the version of NoScript used, and fixed a crash bug that was hindering some users’ attempts to access popular websites like Google Maps and Tumblr. A download of the latest version of the Tor Browser is available here: https://www.torproject.org/download/download

  • Privacy and security-enhancing browser plug-in NoScript released 6 beta and 3 stable versions, addressing both general security/usability issues and specific bugs, including one that would cause Firefox to crash under certain circumstances. View the full NoScript changelog here: https://noscript.net/changelog

  • Subgraph, a secure desktop operating system, released an initial version of Subgraph Metaproxy. Metaproxy uses firewall rules on the local computer to redirect applications through a proxy on the local computer. This happens seamlessly for the user. Metaproxy then tunnels all Internet traffic through the Tor network. It is available on the GitHub repository here: https://github.com/subgraph/subgraph_metaproxy

  • Information Controls Fellow Tim Libert began his fellowship conducting a new research phase for the Ranking Digital Rights (RDR) project, whose goal is to rank ICT-sector companies on their commitments to human rights, free expression, and privacy. Libert’s work will focus on software, devices, and networking equipment. For background and phase 1 results, see here: https://rankingdigitalrights.org/project-documents/2015-indicators/

  • Secure Usability Fellow Maina Olembo is collaborating with the Library Freedom Project and researchers at the University of Cork to solicit testers for evaluation of secure email behavior.

  • Information Controls Fellow Will Scott gave a talk at CCC on his research to expand understanding of open proxies in order to characterize how extensively these systems are used, what they’re used for, and who uses them, as well as some of the surrounding privacy issues. Information about Scott’s open proxy research is available here: http://netlab.cs.washington.edu/squid/

  • Information Controls Fellows Jason Q. Ng and Jeffrey Knockel co-authored a report documenting censorship on Chinese social video platforms. The research showed how content filtering and monitoring operate on four popular social video platforms, including keyword censorship on all platforms surveyed. Read the full Citizen Lab report here: https://citizenlab.org/2015/08/every-rose-has-its-thorn/

  • Tails, a privacy and anonymity enhancing operating system, released version 1.5.1, addressing critical security issues. The Tails OS has now been upgraded to utilize the latest version of the Tor Browser (5.0.2). A download of this latest version of Tails is available here: https://tails.boum.org/download/index.en.html

  • Two major German email providers, GMX and WEB.de, announced the availability of PGP encryption via Mailvelope. Over 30 million GMX and WEB.de users can now start using the integrated end-to-end encryption for the first time. Read the announcement here: https://www.mailvelope.com/en/blog/gmx-and-web-de-launch-pgp

  • Lantern Mobile is now under contract, working to build the mobile version of their desktop application that delivers fast and secure access to blocked sites. In their first month of OTF support, Lantern conducted extensive research on available VPNs and their functionality and usability in order to inform the development of their own app. Lantern developers also began building a prototype, which can be found here: https://github.com/getlantern/lantern-mobile/issues

  • The Localization Lab now has 46 projects with over 4,311 participating individuals contributing to the submission and verification of over 476,000 translated words into over 200 languages and dialects.

  • Secure Usability Fellow Gus Andrews conducted user tests of Mailpile and Pixelated Mail (secure email tools) and usability reviews of mesh networking tool Briar and VPN service Bitmask.

  • Information Controls Fellow Jeffrey Knockel presented a paper at SIGCOMM NS about the ethics of different network measurement techniques.

Select news collected by OTF from the month of August. Get the full feed live @OpenTechFund

The ‘Real’ Dark Web Doesn’t Exist | Motherboard

The Iranian Hacking Campaign to Break into Activists’ Gmail Accounts | Motherboard

Circumvention Tool Deleted After Police Visit Developer | China Digital Times

How governments are using spyware to attack free speech | Amnesty International

China Shutters 50 Websites for ‘Inciting Panic’ Over the Tianjin Disaster | Time

Bangladesh Police Chief Tells Bloggers, “Don’t Cross the Line” | Global Voices Advocacy

Google and China in battle over Cuba’s Internet future | CNBC

Pro-Russian Web Network Digs Up the Dirt on Kremlin Critics | Global Voices

Call for Statements of Interest for #netfreedom projects by @State_DRL due Sept 4th | State DRL

China to set up government censorship offices inside Internet companies | Ars Technica

Projects Mentioned