Saturday, October 6, 2012

Open Internet Tools coming to Cuba?

In August 2011, the State Department awarded the New America Foundation a two-year $1.4 million grant to manage a project called Open Internet Tools, records show.

OpenITP's website says:
OpenITP is a collection of open source projects that help build a truly unfettered internet -- private, anonymous and resistant to control. The projects enhance existing infrastructure, working to enable and protect communication, even in the face of active attempts to suppress it.Its goal is to enable people to talk directly to each other without being censored, surveilled or restricted.
The New America Foundation just received a $4.3 million USAID grant for work in Cuba. Perhaps the foundation plans to bring OpenITP projects to Cuba.

OpenITP says it:
provides material support to free and open source software projects that make tools for circumventing digital surveillance and censorship.
Examples of projects OpenITP has funded are below, along with descriptions taken verbatim from the projects' websites:

The Briar project is building a secure news and discussion platform that will enable journalists, activists and civil society groups in authoritarian countries to communicate without fear of government interference.
The Guardian Project
The Guardian Project creates easy-to-use apps, mobile OS security enhancements, and customized mobile devices for people around the world to help them communicate more freely, and protect themselves from intrusion and monitoring.
Telex is a new approach to circumventing Internet censorship that is intended to help citizens of repressive governments freely access online services and information. The main idea behind Telex is to place anticensorship technology into the Internet's core network infrastructure, through cooperation from large ISPs. Telex is markedly different from past anticensorship systems, making it easy to distribute and very difficult to detect and block.
When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990—well before the Internet was on most people's radar—and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights.
Obfsproxy (obfuscated proxy)
Obfsproxy is a tool that attempts to circumvent censorship, by transforming the Tor traffic between the client and the bridge. This way, censors, who usually monitor traffic between the client and the bridge, will see innocent-looking transformed traffic instead of the actual Tor traffic.

Tor was originally designed, implemented, and deployed as a third-generation onion routing project of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. It was originally developed with the U.S. Navy in mind, for the primary purpose of protecting government communications. Today, it is used every day for a wide variety of purposes by normal people, the military, journalists, law enforcement officers, activists, and many others.

Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. It also enables software developers to create new communication tools with built-in privacy features. Tor provides the foundation for a range of applications that allow organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.

Individuals use Tor to keep websites from tracking them and their family members, or to connect to news sites, instant messaging services, or the like when these are blocked by their local Internet providers. Tor's hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses.

Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they're in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they're working with that organization.

Groups such as Indymedia recommend Tor for safeguarding their members' online privacy and security. Activist groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recommend Tor as a mechanism for maintaining civil liberties online.


Rafael Dvl said...

Without any support, only $50 a year for hosting, the Technology blog La Singularidad Cuba is doing more to advance democracy in Cuba than all these technology programs combined. These projects are too complicated, need specialized training and expensive hardware. Cuba needs ideas that are proven to work, feasible, convenient for regular people and are cheap and undetectable by the regime.
La Singularidad Cuba

Tracey Eaton said...

Rafael - thanks for your comment. I'll check out the website. Tracey

Rafael Dvl said...

The problem (for now) is that these technologies are too advanced and haven't matured. They are NOT CONVENIENT to use and thus cannot reach the critical mass of regular people they need to be successful. The approach by La Singularidad is to use existing low tech, convenient, asymmetric (cheap) technology weapons against totalitarianism. More details at

Tracey Eaton said...

I'm downloading the packet now to see what it looks like

Rafael Dvl said...

They are spending lots of money in technologies that, at best, may only reach a handful of tech savvy network admins in Cuba. Cuban youth with access to a connected computer and know how to set up something like Obfsproxy can be counted with the fingers of my hand. Young Cubans with access to smart phones and a willingness to feed on information are counted in the ten of thousands, soon in the millions.

Tracey Eaton said...

Rafael - I tried opening the Cuba packet with Zipeg for Mac. The file downloaded to my desktop but it is taking a long time to open. It seems to be stuck on 99% done. Do you know the best free tool to use to open an rar file on a Mac?

Rafael Dvl said...

Try Unrarx. If that doesn't work try downloading the package again, you may have lost a few bytes during transmission. I'm using the most advanced compression method to achieve the best ratio in order to reach Cubans with slow connectivity.

Rafael Dvl said...

This older version is available in zip: