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OTF Monthly Report for October 2015

| By: Dan McDevitt

In October, the Open Technology Fund continued funding its diverse portfolio of Internet freedom projects and fellows. In the latest round, OTF received 42 new concept notes requesting nearly $10 million in support. Of note, several OTF-supported apps recently became publicly available for download. Meanwhile OTF-supported research prompted South Korea to shelve a previously government-mandated child surveillance app. (Details below.)

Notable accomplishments

  • Satori, a software that provides access to verifiable bundles of privacy-enhancing software to users living behind national firewalls, has been released publicly and is now available for Android devices on the Google Play store here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.satori.Satori and as a Chrome browser add-on here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/satori/oncomejlklhkbffpdhpmhldlfambmjlf

  • ICFP Fellow Bill Marczak co-authored and led research identifying 32 countries (including Ethiopia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, and Indonesia) where government entities are likely using FinFisher, an easy-to-use spyware tool, to surveil targets - often journalists, human rights activists, and opposition political groups. Read the full Citizen Lab report here: https://citizenlab.org/2015/10/mapping-finfishers-continuing-proliferation/

  • Open Whisper Systems announced that Signal, a user-friendly encrypted communication app that provides secure calling and messaging, is now available on Android devices. Signal will now be the singular, consolidated OWS app, making adoption easier for users than ever before. Previously for Android users there had been two separate apps: TextSecure for encrypted text messaging, and RedPhone for encrypted VOIP. Now there’s just Signal. Download the new Signal on the Google Play store here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.thoughtcrime.securesms

  • The M-Lab Measure app, which provides an easy to use test to measure the performance and health of any Internet connection including speed and diagnostics, has been released publicly and is now available for download on the Chrome web store here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/m-lab-measure/leijmacehibmiomcnpaolboihcdepokh

  • OTF sponsored security audits of open source security tool Nitrokey Storage’s Hardware and Firmware. Nitrokey provides security to personal data and information via a physical USB key. The audits, conducted by Cure53, can be found here: https://www.opentech.fund/article/nitrokey-storage-firmware-and-hardware-security-audits

  • ICFP Fellow Jason Ng authored a piece on China’s crackdown and increased censorship online of so-called “unverified” information on popular blogging and mobile chat application WeChat. Read “China’s Rumor Mill” in Foreign Affairs here: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2015-10-06/chinas-rumor-mill

  • Following an OTF-supported Cure53 security audit, the South Korean government-mandated child surveillance app ‘Smart Sheriff’ was pulled from the market after serious security vulnerabilities were found. Read the Citizen Lab report here: https://citizenlab.org/2015/11/smart-sheriff-update/ and AP coverage here: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/c61a87e602af44df8c98bf73d47ac788/apnewsbreak-south-korea-pulls-plug-child-monitoring-app

  • OTF-supported projects Subgraph OS, Qubes OS, and Tails have created a forum for discussion and collaboration for open source desktop computing systems. The Secure Desktops mailing list will be a place for these and other projects to work through security and privacy challenges faced in developing such resources. The mailing list is open to the public and you can sign up here: https://secure-os.org/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/desktops

  • Tails, a privacy and anonymity enhancing operating system, released version 1.7 for download. New features include the option to start Tails in offline mode (enhancing security), updates to functionality of the Tor Browser within Tails, and the addition of Icedove, a rebranded version of the secure Thunderbird email client. Download Tails 1.7 here: https://tails.boum.org/news/version_1.7/index.en.html

  • OTF hosted its annual OTF Summit that brought together OTF projects, fellows, AC members and other community members for three days of knowledge sharing, capacity building and futures planning. At the end of the summit, various projects and regional representatives from countries such as Iran, Cuba, and Southeast Asia spoke to Congressional staff to share insights and possible solutions dealing with online censorship and repression in their part of the world. In addition, the OTF Community Lab began co-supporting the Internet Freedom Festival with State Department’s DRL Internet Freedom program. Last year this event brought together over 600 global participants who work on anti-censorship and anti-surveillance initiatives.

  • The 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.

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

Censorship and Takedowns: The Last Year Has Been Awful for Internet Freedom | FP

Great Firewall rising: How China wages its war on the Internet | CNN

Chinese Nationalist ‘Hawks’ Form Online Volunteer Army Against ‘Enemy Forces’ | Global Voices

Uganda government used advanced spyware to ‘crush’ opposition, report says | The Verge

Encryption Is More Important, and Easier, Than Ever | New York Times

Finally, a ‘Reasonably-Secure’ Operating System: Qubes R3 | Motherboard

Thai Netizens Stage ‘Virtual Sit-in’ Against Single Internet Gateway Plan | Advox

China Mulls Plans For a Digital ID Card to Track Internet Users | Radio Free Asia

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