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Half of Russia’s email traffic passes through an ordinary-looking building in an otherwise residential district of South West Moscow. On the eighth floor, in here a room occupied by the FSB, the successor organization to the KGB, is a box the size of a VHS player, marked SORM. SORM once intercepted just phone calls. Now it monitors emails, internet usage, Skype, and all social networks. It is the world’s most intrusive listening device, and it is the Russian Government’s front line for the battle of the future of the internet.
Drawn from scores of interviews personally conducted with numerous prominent officials in in the ministry of communications and web-savvy activists challenging the state, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan’s fearless investigative reporting in The Red Web is both harrowing and alarming. They explain the long and storied history of Russian advanced surveillance systems, from research laboratories in Soviet era labor camps to the legalization of government monitoring of all telephone and internet communications in 1995.
Continue reading “The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries”
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Updated with a new Afterword
“The revolution will be Twittered!” declared journalist Andrew Sullivan after protests erupted in Iran. But as journalist and social commentator Evgeny Morozov argues in The Net Delusion, the Internet is a tool that both revolutionaries and authoritarian governments can use. For all of the talk in the West about the power of the Internet to democratize societies, regimes in Iran and China are as stable and repressive as ever. Social media sites have been used there to entrench dictators and threaten dissidents, making it harder—not easier—to promote democracy.
Continue reading “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom”
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In 2004, Kentaro Toyama, an award-winning computer scientist, moved to India to start a new research group for Microsoft. Its mission: to explore novel technological solutions to the world’s persistent social problems. Together with his team, he invented electronic devices for under-resourced urban schools and developed digital platforms for remote agrarian communities. But after a decade of designing technologies for humanitarian causes, Toyama concluded that no technology, however dazzling, could cause social change on its own.
Technologists and policy-makers love to boast about modern innovation, and in their excitement, they exuberantly tout technology’s boon to society. But what have our gadgets actually accomplished? Over the last four decades, America saw an explosion of new technologies from the Internet to the iPhone, from Google to Facebook but in that same period, the rate of poverty stagnated at a stubborn 13%, only to rise in the recent recession. So, a golden age of innovation in the world’s most advanced country did nothing for our most prominent social ill.
Continue reading “Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology”
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In 2004, a California computer whiz named Barrett Lyon uncovered the identity of a hacker running major assaults on business websites. Without fully grasping the repercussions, he set on an investigation that led him into the heart of the Russian mob. Cybercrime was evolving. No longer the domain of small-time thieves, it had been discovered by sophisticated gangs. They began by attacking corporate websites but increasingly stole financial data from consumers and defense secrets from governments.
While Barrett investigated the cutting edge of technology crime, the U.S. government struggled to catch up. Britain, however, was a different story. In the late 1990s, the Queen herself had declared safe e-commerce a national security priority. Agents from the London-based National Hi-Tech Crime Unit sought out Barrett and enlisted his help. They also sent detective Andrew Crocker, a Welsh former boxer, to Russia to track down and prosecute the hackers—and to find out who they worked for.
Continue reading “Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet”
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For more than three hundred years, the world wrestled with conflicts that arose between nation-states. Nation-states wielded military force, financial pressure, and diplomatic persuasion to create world order.” Even after the end of the Cold War, the elements comprising world order remained essentially unchanged.
But 2012 marked a transformation in geopolitics and the tactics of both the established powers and smaller entities looking to challenge the international community. That year, the US government revealed its involvement in Operation Olympic Games,” a mission aimed at disrupting the Iranian nuclear program through cyberattacks; Russia and China conducted massive cyber-espionage operations; and the world split over the governance of the Internet. Cyberspace became a battlefield.
Cyber conflict is hard to track, often delivered by proxies, and has outcomes that are hard to gauge. It demands that the rules of engagement be completely reworked and all the old niceties of diplomacy be recast. Many of the critical resources of statecraft are now in the hands of the private sector, giant technology companies in particular. In this new world order, cybersecurity expert Adam Segal reveals, power has been well and truly hacked.