Since the Arab uprisings of 2011, UAE has utilised 'cyber-security governance' to quell the harbingers of revolt and suppress dissident voices

he nuts and bolts of the Emirati surveillance state moved into the spotlight on 1 February as the Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity company DarkMatter allegedly stepped "out of the shadows" to speak to the international media.

Its CEO and founder, Faisal al-Bannai, gave a rare interview to the Associated Press at the company's headquarters in Abu Dhabi, in which he absolved his company of any direct responsibility for human rights violations in the UAE.  

Established in the UAE in 2015, DarkMatter has always maintained itself to be a commercially driven company. Despite the Emirati government constituting 80 percent of DarkMatter's customer base and the company previously describing itself as "a strategic partner of the UAE government", its CEO was at pains to suggest that it was independent from the state.

According to its website, the company's stated aim is to "protect governments and enterprises from the ever-evolving threat of cyber attack" by offering a range of non-offensive cybersecurity services. 

Seeking skilled hackers

Though DarkMatter defines its activities as defensive, an Italian security expert, who attended an interview with the company in 2016, likened its operations to "big brother on steroids" and suggested it was deeply rooted within the Emirati intelligence system.

Simone Margaritelli, also a former hacker, alleged that during the interview he was informed of the UAE's intention to develop a surveillance system that was "capable of intercepting, modifying, and diverting (as well as occasionally obscuring) traffic on IP, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks".

Although he was offered a lucrative monthly tax-free salary of $15,000, he rejected the offer on ethical grounds.

Furthermore, in an investigation carried out by The Intercept in 2016, sources with inside knowledge of the company said that DarkMatter was "aggressively" seeking skilled hackers to carry out offensive surveillance operations. This included plans to exploit hardware probes already installed across major cities in order to track, locate and hack any person at any time in the UAE.

In many respects, the UAE's surveillance infrastructure has been built by a network of international cybersecurity “dealers” who have willingly profited from supplying the Emirati regime with the tools needed for a modern-day surveillance state

As with other states, there is a need for cybersecurity in the UAE. As the threat of cyber-attacks has increased worldwide, there have been numerous reports of attempted attacks from external actors on critical infrastructure in the country. 

Since the Arab uprisings of 2011, however, internal "cyber-security governance", which has been utilised to quell the harbingers of revolt and suppress dissident voices, has become increasingly important to the Emirati government and other regimes across the region.

Authoritarian control

In the UAE, as with other GCC states, this has found legislative expression in the cybercrime law. Instituted in 2012, its vaguely worded provisions essentially provide a legal basis to detain anybody who criticises the regime online.

This was to be followed shortly after by the formation of the UAE’s own cybersecurity entity, the National Electronic Security Authority (NESA), which recently began working in parallel with the UAE Armed Forces’ cyber command unit, established in 2014.  

A network of Emirati government agencies and state-directed telecommunications industries have worked in loose coordination with international arms manufacturers and cybersecurity companies to transform communications technologies into central components of authoritarian control. 

In 2016, an official from the Dubai police force announced that authorities were monitoring users across 42 social media platforms, while a spokesperson for the UAE’s Telecommunication Regulatory Authority similarly boasted that all social media profiles and internet sites were being tracked by the relevant agencies.

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Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi meets with US President Donald Trump in Washington in May 2017 (AFP)

As a result, scores of people who have criticised the UAE government on social media have been arbitrarily detained, forcefully disappeared and, in many cases, tortured.

Last year, Jordanian journalist Tayseer al-Najjar and prominent Emirati academic Nasser bin Ghaith received sentences of three and 10 years respectively for comments made on social media. Similarly, award-winning human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor has been arbitrarily detained for nearly a year due to his online activities. 

This has been a common theme across the region in the post-"Arab Spring" landscape. In line with this, a lucrative cybersecurity market opened up across the Middle East and North Africa, which, according to the US tech research firm Gartner, was valued at $1.3bn in 2016.

A modern-day surveillance state

In many respects, the UAE's surveillance infrastructure has been built by a network of international cybersecurity "dealers" who have willingly profited from supplying the Emirati regime with the tools needed for a modern-day surveillance state. 

Moreover, it has been reported that DarkMatter has been hiring a range of top talent from across the US national security and tech establishment, including from Google, Samsung, and McAfee. Late last year, it was revealed that DarkMatter was managing an intelligence contract that had been recruiting former CIA agents and US government officials to train Emirati security officials in a bid to bolster the UAE's intelligence body.

UK military companies also have a foothold in the Emirati surveillance state. Last year, it was revealed that BAE Systems had been using a Danish subsidiary, ETI Evident, to export surveillance technologies to the UAE government and other regimes across the region. 

'The million-dollar dissident'

Although there are officially no diplomatic relations between the two countries, in 2016, Abu Dhabi launched Falcon Eye, an Israeli-installed civil surveillance system. This enables Emirati security officials to monitor every person "from the moment they leave their doorstep to the moment they return to it", a source close to Falcon Eye told Middle East Eye in 2015.

The source added that the system allows work, social and behavioral patterns to be recorded, analyzed and archived: "It sounds like sci-fi but it is happening in Abu Dhabi today."

Moreover, in a story that made headlines in 2016, Ahmed Mansoor's iPhone was hacked by the UAE government with software provided by the Israeli-based security company NSO Group. Emirati authorities reportedly paid $1m for the software, leading international media outlets to dub Mansoor "the million-dollar dissident."

Mansoor's case is illustrative of how Emirati authorities have conducted unethical practices in the past. In recent years, the UAE has bought tailored software products from international companies such as Hacking Team to engage in isolated, targeted attacks on human rights activists, such as Mansoor.

The operations of DarkMatter, as well as the installation of Falcon Eye, suggest, however, that rather than relying on individual products from abroad, Emirati authorities are now building a surveillance system of their own and bringing operations in-house by developing the infrastructure for a 21st-century police state. 

[Source: This article was published in middleeasteye.net By JOE ODELL - Uploaded by the Association Member: Wushe Zhiyang]

Categorized in Deep Web

The Internet today is huge. It offers many opportunities but also brings certain dangers. That is why need decent protection when we browse the web. The topic is quite popular and there are many options you can try. You can find much information about VPN, Proxy, TOR and other technologies but what does all that mean and which option should you choose. In this article, we will explain popular options in details, namely the trended TOR bundles TOR plus VPN and TOR plus Proxy.

Architecture

TOR is quite popular right now and it provides a decent level of protection. However, there are certain risks involved like malicious exit nodes .

There is a remedy. VPN or Proxy may serve as a great addition to TOR but only one of them can secure your traffic from malicious TOR nodes. Let us clarify why is that. The reason for that lies in the difference between VPN and Proxy technologies.

Security and Privacy

HTTP Proxy simply changes your IP for web traffic and SOCKS Proxy extends the functionality to work with other traffic (e.g FTP, BitTorrent, etc). Therefore, Proxy offers anonymity but not privacy.

VPN has an option of traffic encryption and DNS leaks protection. In other words, VPN provides both anonymity and privacy. VPN plus takes the concept to a new level and introduces an extra security layer .

This is a DNS leak test result for Privatoria’s VPN TOR service

Set-up process

There are not so many ways to use TOR together with Proxy and VPN. Proxy is more flexible in this regard as it can be used ensemble with TOR browser or Tails OS. The configuration process is trivial. You simply have to enter web browser’s preferences>advanced>network and enter the settings.

This is how Privatoria Proxy plus TOR settings look like on a Debian 8 with MATE desktop

There are also more advanced configurations that you can try, for example a Proxy Chain .

Unfortunately, VPN cannot be used inside Tails OS. The developers clearly state that on the official site . Fortunately, Privatoria offers a way to use TOR plus VPN. The best, you don’t have to use Tails OS or a web-browser for that. To configure Privatoria’s VPN TOR service on Debian-based systems use regular OpenVPN functionality (you’ll need packages “openvpn” “network-manager-openvpn” and “network-manager-openvpn-gnome” packages for it to work).

This is how the settings look like on a Debian 8 with MATE desktop

Speed

Proxy is an absolute winner in this situation. This is most because your connection only goes through one extra computer and not the whole network. The proxy also does not touch your OS networking infrastructure, unlike VPN. That is why VPN can slow the system down a little. Also, VPN connection speed should be slower compared to VPN due to a longer path that the data has to travel. Add TOR to the mix and what you’ll get is a pretty long distance. Fortunately, with Privatoria Proxy and VPN connection speed does not differ due to service’s specific system architecture.

Here is the speed test screenshot

Conclusion

Internet anonymity and privacy tools finally make their way to the mainstream audience. It is important to know the differences between Proxy and VPN and how both interact with the TOR network. The main point to remember is the that Proxy TOR should be used for simpler tasks like watching YouTube while VPN TOR is a choice better for sending a personal e-mail.

Source : deepdotweb

Categorized in Deep Web

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