Net Alert brought together well respected researchers in the circumvention tech space to investigate targeted digital attacks against at-risk populations. Participating organizations and/or individuals include Open Effect, The Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, and professor Jedidiah Crandall at the University of New Mexico.

A main portion of OTF support involved investigating the privacy issues of popular consumer-grade technologies used by at-risk populations since the vulnerabilities and backdoors found in these tools can be utilized by state-sponsored attackers to surveil, censor, disrupt and target end-users. Other areas of focus for this research effort included targeted malware, network side channels and man-in-the-middle attacks. In addition to creating new bodies of knowledge, the project allowed researchers to test assumptions about previous work, develop a refined and validated methodology for communicating technical research and findings to at-risk populations, and improve the limited knowledge available of popular mobile applications in the global south.

Research findings were translated into six Net Alert reports designed to empower end-users to make better informed decisions about their technology usage. To ensure their accessibility, emphasis was put on visualizations and other non-text based media. In addition, each report was localized, translated and tailored according to the needs, use cases and threat models of each community.

Addressed problems

  • Restrictive Internet filtering by technical methods (IP blocking, DNS filtering, TCP RST, DPI, etc.)
  • Blocking, filtering, or modification of political, social, and/or religious content (including apps)
  • Technical attacks against government critics, journalists, and/or human rights organizations (Cyberattacks)
  • Repressive surveillance or monitoring of communication

Objective(s)

  • Research

Beneficiaries

  • Activists
  • Journalists
  • Advocacy groups/NGOs
  • Academia
  • Ethnic minorities
  • General public
  • Women
  • Youth
  • Sexual minorities

Region(s) archive

  • Global

Technology attributes

  • Desktop App
  • Desktop client
  • Mobile application (clientside)