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[liberationtech] An Arabic Linux distro that corrects "multiple Tor bugs"

Amr Gharbeia amr at
Sat Apr 21 03:58:30 PDT 2012

Being a cyber Arab myself, I'd like to know who is behind this initiative.
I'd also like to make a comment on the notion of having another distro, and
I will be following the other discussion of what the big fixes in TOR and
other software are.

There is a tradition of creating whole new pieces of software, and in this
case, a whole new distro, to add a few features that are Arabic-specific,
since the language is not exactly similar in terms of structure, grammar
and script, instead of choosing to localise, fix or improve already
existing software. Other Arabic-speaking distros also add some
Islam-related software. The trend goes sometimes as far as trying to write
legal licences for 'holy scripture'.

Security is immediately a much more dangerous issue than localisation, so
my first impression would be to take security software coming out of a
region   particularly aimed for that region with an even larger pinch of

My recommendation for users would be always to use generic and popular
software and configure it. I'd make the same to developers: fix TOR instead
of forking it, create an ubuntu-syria package where all the needed
configurations can be easily installed (and reviewed) by activists, and
hopefully later going upstream to the main ubuntu (or whatever) distro. I
help a lot of activists from the region and I'd love to see a 'take the
blue pill' option in the installer.

On 19 April 2012 09:36, KheOps <kheops at> wrote:

> Hello everyone,
> A Syrian activist came a few hours ago on Telecomix's OpSyria and
> pointed us to what seems to be a new Linux live distro based on Ubuntu,
> apparently designed to provide tools to increase anonymity and privacy:
> Among others, its creators state that their distro, Virtus, "uses a
> modified version of TOR software. The modified version fixes multiple
> bugs found in the original software by Virtus developers when it was
> used in Syria."
> I don't think anybody has reviewed it yet, but it seems the distro is
> already spreading a bit, which is why I felt useful to post a warning
> here, espescially towards Jacob who might be interested in having a look
> at what can be these "bug fixes".
> Virtus has been designed by what looks like to be a new group called
> "Cyber Arabs" ( They have a Twitter account
> (@Cyber_Arabs), with which they already promoted the use of OTR, SSH
> proxies in YouTube videos and linked to several EFF articles regarding
> RAT malware used in Syria. I tend to think that their intentions are
> rather good, although their knowledge may appear - for now - a bit clumsy.
> I'd be glad to get any advice/feedback on this :)
> Cheers,
> KheOps
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Amr Gharbeia
Civil Liberties Director
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
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