Security Without Borders: Free security help for dissidents

Security is a right. Security Without Borders offers free cybersecurity services to activists, journalists and human rights defenders.

Security researcher Claudio Guarnieri has experience working with journalists and human rights organizations that have exercised freedom of speech, reported on some form of corruption and wound up becoming targets because of it. Their computers may be compromised with spying malware such as those in the hands of the Hacking Team, FinFisher or NSA to name but a few. Their electronic communications also may be intercepted, and their messaging programs may be blocked.

All of that may be because the journalists and human rights organizations in our modern connected society were standing up for what is right, being the voice of dissent, getting out the news about injustice.

At 33rd Chaos Communication Congress, or 33C3, Guarnieri presented “Hacking the World,” which was actually not a technical talk; it was more about “security activism.”

For all the wonderful things that the internet has given us, the internet also has been turned into a tool for repression. Guarnieri discussed “technological imbalance”—nation states have deep pockets and use the imbalance to their own advantage. Technology has been used “to curb dissent, to censor information, to identify and monitor people.” He added, “Billions of dollars have been poured into surveillance—both passive and active.”

Sadly, electronic surveillance and censorship have become so commonplace that nowadays people can get arrested for a tweet. There are places were dissidents are hunted down, using crypto is illegal, where sites are blocked and even internet access can be cut off. “Those who face imprisonment and violence in the pursuit of justice and democracy cannot succeed if they don’t communicate securely as well as remain safe online.”

Security can no longer be a privilege,” Guarnieri said. Instead, it needs to be “a right which is exercised and protected.” Security “is a precondition for privacy, which is the key enabler for freedom of expression.”

He was not implying that the security should come from big firms, either, since big security businesses often need contracts with the government and are dependent on the national security sector. So, Guarnieri turned to the hacker community.

He launched Security Without Borders, which “is an open collective of hackers and cybersecurity professionals who volunteer with assisting journalists, human rights defenders, and non-profit organizations with cyber security issues.”

security without borders Security Without Borders

Upon visiting Security Without Borders, you’ll notice a big red button labeled “Request Assistance.” Activists, journalists and human rights defenders are encouraged to reach out for help. The group of “penetration testers, malware analysts, developers, engineers, system administrators and hackers” from all walks of life offer cybersecurity help.

We can assist with web security assessments, conduct breach investigations and analysis, and generally act as an advisor in questions pertaining to cybersecurity. As security services are often expensive to come by, SWB offers these services free to organizations and people fighting against human rights abuse, racism, and other injustices.

When requesting help, you are asked to give your name or organization’s name, an email address, a description of the work you do and what kind of help you need.

Hackers and computer security geeks who support freedom of speech are also encouraged to reach out and volunteer their skills.

Security Without Borders is on Twitter and also has a mailing list. Some of the discussions on the mailing list so far have included trust and where to draw the line for extending help to specific groups. While it is clear Security Without Borders is just getting off the ground, it seems like a wonderful and much needed project. If you can help, please do. If you need help, then ask for it.

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