SXSW Interactive 2015

Anyone Can Prevent Cyberwar-- Here's How


At dawn on 12 March 2013, police in Bahrain raided the house of 17 year-old Ali Shofa, confiscated his laptop and phone, and took him into custody. Ali was charged with writing anonymous Tweets referring to Bahrain's king as a "dictator," and was sentenced to 1 year in prison. Authorities had tracked him down by hijacking Ali's friend's account to send malicious links to Ali.

Governments, cyber militias, and others increasingly seek to exploit the digital security vulnerabilities of their adversaries to cause physical harm including imprisonment, disappearances, and even murder. A growing commercial "lawful intercept" industry from the West supplements freely available tools from the hacker underground.

Learn more from security researchers and victims alike about how these crimes have unfolded and what you can do to prevent them. Even if you’re not a computer security expert--or have never traveled outside of the US--you can play a part in making such abuses a thing of the past.

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  1. How are governments, cyber militias, and others using commercial computer security and surveillance tools to kill or harm civilians in conflict zones?
  2. Who makes the commercial computer security and surveillance tools used by governments and cyber militias in conflict zones and why are these tools available with minimal licensing or export controls?
  3. What are some examples of how people living in conflict zones have been physically victimized by governments or other groups through the use of commercial computer security and surveillance tools?
  4. How can people, especially those living in conflict zones, protect themselves from governments, cyber militias, criminal organizations, or others who use commercial computer security or surveillance tools to monitor computers, mobile phones, and other communications technologies? How can these victims reduce their risk even if monitored?
  5. What can SXSW attendees do it help protect individuals from harm resulting from governments and cyber militias using commercial computer security and surveillance tools to target private communications? Are new regulations required? Can technology help protect individuals?



Ryan Lackey, Principal, Security Practice, CloudFlare, Inc.

Meta Information:

  • Tags: surveillance
  • Event: Interactive
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: Privacy and Security
  • Track 2
  • Level: Beginner

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