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Telecomix Creating a Live Record of Revolution

At the Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin the hacktivist collective Telecomix announced the next step in their operations. A video portal and secured connections will support revolutionaries in Syria, Kazakhstan and beyond.

by Julie Gommes On January 11, 2012

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UPDATED: The video portal can be accessed here.

Arab League observers sent to Syria to investigate the situation on the ground there had nothing to report from Homs, despite it being the epicenter of clashes between demonstrators and security forces in recent weeks. According to criticism from human rights organizations, the observers stayed for just a few hours in Homs, accompanied for the majority of that time by supervising Syrian officials.

Soon Internet users around the world could themselves become observers, thanks to a video portal created by the hacker collective Telecomix. The hacktivist group has already offered support to the revolution in Tunisia and helped to restore  communications and the Internet in Egypt at the height of repression there. In Berlin for the 28th Chaos Computer Congress1, which brought together hackers and other information security experts, a number of hacktivists from the group announced the creation of the portal. Among them was the young blond known as KheOps, who has spoken openly on French TV in recent months:

Right now, we’re trying to regroup the videos that are emerging by classifying them according to location and date, so that journalists can compare and contrast in order to see what happened in the same city over several weeks, months…

The idea is to recreate a video record of the Syrian revolution, a record that’s already under development in both English and Arabic, via a site featuring “news from the ground” that’s updated in real time by Telecomix members and Syrians involved in the project. KheOps is one of the founders of Operation Syria. OpSyria, which has been ongoing for over six months, continues to provide daily challenges to the group. “Even if we are doing less spectacular things now, we have to maintain and create new technical stuff constantly,” he explains.

Short-circuiting the spies

These constant innovations allow Syrians to connect more securely every day, as KheOps explains:

For example, with the VPN exit point. It’s about having a server with a proper connection in a country that is not Syria or a country friendly with the Syrian regime, so that the Syrian spies can not get access.

Thanks to this daily work Syrian users can connect to this server, allowing them to use the Internet without the security services being aware of it.

A few weeks after the start of the Syrian revolution, Telecomix hackers chose to divert local networks in order to allow Syrians to remove certain images and country information, and also to learn a few simple rules about security and anonymity on the Internet. The enormous technical feat now allows Syrian hacktivists to circumvent censorship.

Technological infrastructure

Okhin, one of the French participants in the operation, says that the methods available to such collectives remain limited and that under no circumstances could they replace the revolutionaries on the ground:

We try to find new ways to help the Syrians, to find innovative ways to get news from the field, we try to do everything we’ve done so far. (But) we’ve just provided a technological infrastructure.

Kazakhstan, Russia, Cuba: there are no shortage of dictatorships and thus potential projects. “We’re volunteers, we do this in our spare time, we can not save the world,” explains Okhin. He reminds that day’s conference at the CCC: “I learned that in Turkey they are beginning to organize for themselves, to not necessarily seek help from Telecomix, apart from technical support. To make a difference they must develop their own clusters.2

The Telecomix group is made up of hacktivists of different nationalities sometimes living in completely different time zones. This is true of the imposing American who calls himself Punkbob. On his side he is starting, with others, to work on Kazakhstan:

The Internet is not free there, they can not connect to the sites they want. We’re also keeping an eye on Russia…

Image Credits: Flickr CC-NYNCSA Ophelia Noor

Read more about Telecomix

  1. Hashtag #28C3 on Twitter []
  2. A cluster is a group of several servers also called server cluster []

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