[tor-reports] Trip Report, Defender's Days in Sweden

Andrew Lewman andrew at torproject.is
Tue Apr 8 21:37:56 UTC 2014

I was invited to help train activists at risk during Civil Rights
Defender's[^1] Defender's Days. You can watch the full closing event on
CRD's Bambuser[^2] channel.

I spent a total of 5 hours in scheduled sessions training activists
on digital security, Internet surveillance, and how to protect their
communications from mass surveillance. In the sessions, we had some good
discussions about why do we need these tools, how to use them, and how
risky mobile phones and leaking IP addresses can be to individuals and
those with which they work. There were many more offline conversations
over arranged meals to discuss individual concerns and situations. I
learned much more about the situation in Moldova[^3], Transistria[^4],
Burma[^5], Vietnam[^6], and Bahrain[^7] through long conversations and
sharing of experiences. Many of these people work with those exiled
through repeated assassination attempts and direct threats by the
government. Their primary concern is the safety of their families and
their colleagues. Many of the exiled people moved right outside
the border of their country to keep in touch with their colleagues
and families still in the country. Their concerns about cross-border
kidnappings and physical safety are very real. Digital security always
seems trivial compared to these threats.

All of the people with which I had conversations had been through at
least three "digital security" trainings from various organizations. None
of them actually continue to use any of their training in their day to
day work, even those confirmed to have been targeted by state-sponsored
malware. Their core attitude is that they don't worry about the NSA and
other global organizations spying on them, as they're consumed with their
local government already spying on them, both digitally and physically. It
wasn't until we started talking about protecting the safety of others that
they understood the need for digital security and safer practices. There
are many supporters of these activist organizations within the country,
but getting them to do more than post flyers and spread the word is
sometimes challenging. By having better digital security practices in an
easy to use manor, many believe more people would take a risk to help out.

The one thing consistent with all of the conversations is the palpable
feeling and expression of fear. It's easy to tell the activists now
living in safer environments from those living in hostile locations. Many
wished to be in exile in rich, democratic regimes like Stockholm, Berlin,
or Copenhagen, but commitment to the cause or economic realities keep
them in their homes. Learning to train people who have been through
repeated or constant trauma is an interesting topic. Many of these people
decided that having to hear about traumatic events or stories from other
trainees diminishes their ability to learn and change habits to use these
tools. As a whole, they felt that long-term programs to help individual
organizations is what is needed. A 1 to 3 day digital security training
doesn't help them when they go back home and run into issues, or try to
convince others in their groups to use the tools about which they learned
during the training. They wanted a sort of help desk and person to person
relationship with an expert in the tools to be able to use them safely.

They all heard of Tor, and some use it daily. However, the most common
tool everyone used was chat, whether via facebook, gchat, what's app,
viber, skype, or something else. I explained how just about all chat
networks encrypt from the user to the provider's server, rather than from
user to user. They all understood what it meant to trust the provider as
the endpoint of the encryption versus end to end. Teaching them about
OTR[^8] was valuable. I offered that we have Tor-specific help[^9]
in a few languages to make using Tor Browser safer and easier.

All in all, it was a great week to be in Stockholm and help out a number
of people around the world. I learned a great deal about what's going
on at the ground level in many of these countries.

I was interviewed by Cambridge Community TV[^10] about the experience
as well.

[^1] https://www.civilrightsdefenders.org
[^2] http://bambuser.com/v/4504988
[^3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moldova
[^4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transnistria
[^5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma
[^6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam
[^7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahrain
[^8] https://otr.cypherpunks.ca/
[^9] https://www.torproject.org/about/contact.html.en#support
[^10] http://www.cctvcambridge.org/CivilRightsDefenders

pgp 0x6B4D6475

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