Tag Archives: Bytes for All

Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper interviews Shahzad Ahmad regarding cybercrime legislation

Pakistani newspaper DAWN interviewed Shahzad Ahmad, a Cyber Stewards Network partner and director of Bytes for All. Ahmad spoke on the topic of cyber crime in Pakistan, in particular regarding a new bill, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2015 (PECA), which has been criticized as violating Pakistan’s commitments to universal human rights standards.

Shahzad Ahmad told Dawn that he was disappointed with the government’s failure to make citizens a part of the process when drafting the bill. “Unfortunately, our incumbent government has shown a tendency to discuss, debate and implement critical legislation behind closed doors. In practice, what this means is that those who’ll be affected by this new legislation are kept out and their voices shunned,” he said.

Ahmad called for the government to establish Privacy Commissioners to oversee the government’s handling of this issue, given that judicial oversight has been ineffective or simply absent. He noted that this would be a critical step towards ensuring that everyday citizens are engaged with cyber crime issues and related policies, and reducing the likelihood of enforcement agencies misusing authority. In addition, Ahmad explained that as a signatory to the United Nations convention on human rights, Pakistan needs to establish a national human rights institution, which would serve as a body that can receive and remedy citizen complaints.

Read the full article.


Cyber Stewards at RightsCon 2015

The Citizen Lab will be hosting two sessions, “Asia Chats” and “Filtering Free Expression,” at the RightsCon 2015 conference in Manila, Philippines.

(1) “Asia Chats: Security and Privacy of Asian Messaging Apps”

Abstract: “In Asia, mobile chat apps like WeChat, LINE, and KakaoTalk are hugely popular and rapidly expanding into new markets. The growth of these applications and strategies from the companies behind them to attract an international user base raise questions regarding the kind of pressures they may face in specific jurisdictions to censor or monitor communications and provide governments with user data and how they will respond to these demands. The Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto has been actively researching privacy, security, and censorship in popular Asian chat apps. Join Citizen Lab and partners to share latest findings on these apps and explore strategies for helping users make more informed decisions about the apps they use and engaging companies to improve privacy and security.”

The “Asia Chats” session will discuss the Citizen Lab’s analysis of information controls and privacy in mobile messaging applications used in Asia, with a focus on WeChatLINE, and KakaoTalkRead the background information regarding the project. This session will take place on Tuesday, March 24, at 11:30-12:45 in room Ruby A.

(2) “Filtering Free Expression in Southeast Asia: Challenges and Opportunities”

Abstract: “Governments have increasingly sought to impose information controls (e.g., censorship and filtering) on the Internet as more and more people are seeking and sharing information, running campaigns, and engaging in political discourse online. Information controls can be applied in highly dynamic ways that respond to events on the ground—particularly around major events such as elections or transfers of powers, global conferences, and armed conflicts—and may include multiple actors, such as states, private companies, criminal or militant groups, and civil society organizations. In this session, ARTICLE 19, the Citizen Lab, and a number of civil society representatives from the Southeast Asian region will engage in discussions about the legal and technological forms of information controls, and the instances in which they have been applied.”

A joint event between the Citizen Lab and ARTICLE 19, the “Filtering Free Expression” session will discuss the two organizations’ research and advocacy on censorship and filtering in the Southeast Asian region. The event is part of the Citizen Lab’s study into event-based information controls, in which we’ve examined information controls during the 2014 coup in Thailandin Iraq in reaction to ISIS insurgency, and during the 2013 Internet Governance Forum in Bali, Indonesia. This session will take place also on Tuesday, March 24, at 17:00-18:15 in room Emerald C.

Other sessions of interest at the RightsCon 2015 conference

Citizen Lab Senior Security Researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire will be presenting a session entitled “Real World Threats for Human Rights Workers, Activists, and Journalists,” which will examine the commercialization of offensive technologies and the targeting of journalists, human rights workers, and activists.

Citizen Lab partner organization ASL 19 will host a “lightning talk” on the issue of restrictive controls implemented during politically or socially sensitive periods (e.g. right before an election) in Iran in a session called “Responding to Iran’s ‘Just-in-time’ Information Controls.”

Cyber Stewards Network member Paradigm Initiative Nigeria will also host “a lightning talk” in a session entitled “Positive Rights in Africa: The Nigerian “Digital Rights and Freedom Bill” Example,” which will discuss the process that led to this positive rights campaign, provide information on work done so far (especially lessons from the campaign) and discuss positive rights in Africa.

Cyber Stewards Network member Bytes for All will give brief introductions and practical demonstrations to introduce the key tools for secure mobile and web communication, such as basic PGP encryption, ToR, Text Secure, and using proxies among other tools, in a session entitled “Digital Tools to Evade Surveillance.”

Cyber Stewards Network member ICT Watch will conduct a tech demo to illustrate the operation and end use of OpenBTS for community run telecom in a session called “OpenBTS for Grasroots Telco Infrastructure.”

View the draft schedule and program highlights.

Bytes for All convenes 2015 Pakistan Cyberspace Conference

The 2015 Pakistan Cyberspace Conference, a two day conference (February 26-27) hosted by Bytes for All, convened government officials, human rights activists, media professionals, and business leaders to discuss a range of issues related to cyberspace in Pakistan. The conference sought to encourage government officials to formulate informed policy on cyberspace issues, in light of input from civil society and business leaders.

Panel discussions focus on five topics, including “The Media and the Internet: Opportunities and Obstacles” and “Surveillance, Privacy  and the State Security Narrative in Pakistan.” Deibert weighed in on the panel entitled “Cyber Warfare: A New Battleground,” moderated by Shahzad Ahmad, Director of Bytes for All, and includes speakers such as Mushahid Hussain Syed, the Chairman of the the Pakistani Senate Standing Committee on Defence; Ammar Jafri, the Chairman of Cyber Security Task Force of Pakistan; Aamir Atta, the editor of ProPakistani.com; and Quratulain Zaman, an author with Global Voices. Panelists discussed the possible shaping of online space into a new battleground for military, intelligence and corporate agencies.

When asked about ways in which the global community is responding to increasingly invasive technology based surveillance, Ahmad offered the example of evidence-based public interest litigation. In particular, Ahmad cited Citizen Lab research revealing the presence of FinFisher Command and Control servers in Pakistan [PDF], which in turn prompted legal action by Bytes for All.

Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert was also in attendance, and delivered a keynote address outlining how online censorship in Pakistan has been used to suppress political dissent and free speech. In the same vein, he explained that governments throughout the world have had “backdoors” built into major telecommunications companies for easy access to consumer information. Deibert concluded his remarks in the keynote by placing emphasis on the fact that “for a truly open, free, [and] secure cyberspace, individuals and societies will actively have to strive for it.”

Read more about the 2015 Pakistan Cyberspace conference, including attendees and schedule. A live Twitter feed of the conference can be found on Bytes for All’s Twitter account.

Media Coverage: Daily Times.

Bytes for All hits snags in FinFisher court hearing

A public interest litigation case launched by Cyber Stewards Network partner Bytes For All (B4A)  at the Lahore High Court has been met with obstacles during court proceedings.

B4A began the proceedings using research conducted by the Citizen Lab, documented in the report titled “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying.” The research revealed the presence of FinFisher on the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) Network, the largest telecommunications provider in Pakistan. The court action by B4A alleged that the presence of FinFisher servers in Pakistan may violate constitutional rights against breaches of privacy, given the software’s ability to use trojans to access the information of users.

Despite a court order to look into the matter and produce a report in one month, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) has repeatedly failed to do so. Six court hearings have been missed or cancelled by order. Questions remain as to who is using the FinFisher server in Pakistan, how it came to be implemented without public inquiry, and how much government funding has been employed for its purchase.