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[liberationtech] My CPJ blog: Lessons from the Cryptocat debate
nadim at nadim.cc
Tue Sep 11 10:34:57 PDT 2012
Please, tell me more about how your allusion at the end of your post
absolves you of the culpability of fact-checking!
Furthermore, I have confirmed with Chris concerning the browser plugin
issue when I met him last week in D.C., while Patrick Ball and I had an
exchange that was posted on libtech weeks ago under the
migraine-inducing "What I learned from Cryptocat" thread.
Did you even ask Chris or Patrick about the browser plugin platform?
I'll eat a shoe if you did. I've been working for weeks on this and it's
people like you who just make me feel like all my effort is completely
On 9/11/2012 1:24 PM, frank at journalistsecurity.net wrote:
> Toward the end of the piece, I said: some critics are now working with
> Kobeissi to help clean up and secureCryptocat.
> What you are saying is that Cryptocat is now a browser-plugin only
> application, and that therefore, if I understand your point, the
> vulnerabilities alluded to by Chris and now Patrick are now all fixed.
> Are they? If they are, I have not yet read confirmation that they are
> from others in this community. I'd welcome any input here.
> And, Nadim, I have and continue to support you for finally building a
> truly user-friendly tool. We need tools that are both secure and
> easier-to-use, and that was the point of the piece.
> Frank Smyth
> Executive Director
> Global Journalist Security
> frank at journalistsecurity.net <mailto:frank at journalistsecurity.net>
> Tel. + 1 202 244 0717
> Cell + 1 202 352 1736
> Twitter: @JournoSecurity
> Website: www.journalistsecurity.net <http://www.journalistsecurity.net>
> PGP Public Key <http://www.journalistsecurity.net/franks-pgp-public-key>
> Please consider our Earth before printing this email.
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> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject: Re: [liberationtech] My CPJ blog: Lessons from the Cryptocat
> From: Nadim Kobeissi <nadim at nadim.cc <mailto:nadim at nadim.cc>>
> Date: Tue, September 11, 2012 1:14 pm
> To: liberationtech <liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu
> <mailto:liberationtech at lists.stanford.edu>>
> I can't even-
> Frank sent me this article about 15 minutes ago and I answered with the
> notion that Cryptocat has been a browser-plugin only app for more than a
> month, and that his article is just incredibly ignorant and frustrating
> as a result of it ignoring that.
> Relevant links:
> Excuse me while I now go waterboard myself,
> On 9/11/2012 1:07 PM, frank at journalistsecurity.net
> <mailto:frank at journalistsecurity.net> wrote:
> > Hi everybody,
> > Below is my CPJ blog on the Cryptocat debate. It makes some of the same
> > points that I already made here a few weeks ago. And please know that my
> > intent is to help work toward a solution in terms of bridging invention
> > and usability. I know there are different views, and I have already
> > heard some. Please feel free to respond. (If you wish you may wish to
> > copy me at frank at journalistsecurity.net <mailto:frank at journalistsecurity.net>
> > <mailto:frank at journalistsecurity.net
> <http://mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>> to avoid me missing
> your note
> > among others.)
> > Thank you! Best, Frank
> > http://www.cpj.org/security/2012/09/in-cryptocat-lessons-for-technologists-and-journal.php
> > *In Cryptocat, lessons for technologists and journalists*
> > By Frank Smyth/Senior Adviser for Journalist Security
> > <http://www.cpj.org/blog/author/frank-smyth>
> > /Alhamdulillah! /Finally, a technologist designed a security tool that
> > everyone could use. A Lebanese-born, Montreal-based computer scientist,
> > college student, and activist named Nadim Kobeissi had developed a
> > cryptography tool, Cryptocat <https://crypto.cat/>, for the Internet
> > that seemed as easy to use as Facebook Chat but was presumably far more
> > secure.
> > Encrypted communications are hardly a new idea. Technologists wary of
> > government surveillance have been designing free encryption software
> > since the early 1990s <http://www.pgpi.org/doc/overview/>. Of course, no
> > tool is completely safe, and much depends on the capabilities of the
> > eavesdropper. But for decades digital safety tools have been so hard to
> > use that few human rights defenders and even fewer journalists (my best
> > guess is one in a 100) employ them.
> > Activist technologists often complain that journalists and human rights
> > defenders are either too lazy or foolish to not consistently use digital
> > safety tools when they are operating in hostile environments.
> > Journalists and many human rights activists, for their part, complain
> > that digital safety tools are too difficult or time-consuming to
> > operate, and, even if one tried to learn them, they often don't work as
> > expected.
> > Cryptocat promised
> > <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/07/crypto-cat-encryption-for-all/all>
> > to finally bridge these two distinct cultures. Kobeissi was profiled
> > <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/nyregion/nadim-kobeissi-creator-of-a-secure-chat-program-has-freedom-in-mind.html>
> > in /The New York Times/; /Forbes/
> > <http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonmatonis/2012/07/19/5-essential-privacy-tools-for-the-next-crypto-war/>
> > and especially /Wired/
> > <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/07/crypto-cat-encryption-for-all/all>
> > each praised the tool. But Cryptocat's sheen faded fast. Within three
> > months of winning a prize associated with /The Wall Street Journal/
> > <http://datatransparency.wsj.com/>, Cryptocat ended up like a cat caught
> > in storm--wet, dirty, and a little worse for wear. Analyst Christopher
> > Soghoian--who wrote a /Times/ op-ed last fall
> > <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/27/opinion/without-computer-security-sources-secrets-arent-safe-with-journalists.html>
> > saying that journalists must learn digital safety skills to protect
> > sources--blogged that Cryptocat had far too many structural flaws
> > <http://paranoia.dubfire.net/2012/07/tech-journalists-stop-hyping-unproven.html?utm_source=Contextly&utm_medium=RelatedLinks&utm_campaign=AroundWeb>
> > for safe use in a repressive environment.
> > An expert writing in /Wired/ agreed. Responding to another /Wired/ piece
> > just weeks before, Patrick Ball said the prior author's admiration of
> > Cryptocat was "inaccurate, misleading andpotentially dangerous
> > <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/08/wired_opinion_patrick_ball/2/>."
> > Ball is one of the Silicon Valley-based nonprofit Benetech
> > <http://www.benetech.org/> developers ofMartus
> > <http://www.benetech.org/human_rights/martus.shtml>, an encrypted
> > database used by groups to secure information like witness testimony of
> > human rights abuses.
> > But unlike Martus, which uses its own software, Cryptocat is a
> > "host-based security" application that relies on servers to log in to
> > its software. And this kind of application makes Cryptocat potentially
> > vulnerable
> > <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/08/wired_opinion_patrick_ball/all/>
> > to manipulation through theft of login information--as everyone,
> > including Kobeissi, now seems to agree.
> > So we are back to where we started, to a degree. Other, older digital
> > safety tools are "a little harder to use, but their security is real,"
> > Ball added in /Wired/. Yet, in the real world, fromMexico
> > <http://www.cpj.org/blog/2011/09/mexican-murder-may-mark-grim-watershed-for-social.php>
> > to Ethiopia
> > <http://www.cpj.org/2012/07/ethiopia-sentences-eskinder-six-others-on-terror-c.php>,
> > from Syria
> > <http://www.cpj.org/security/2012/05/dont-get-your-sources-in-syria-killed.php>
> > to Bahrain
> > <http://www.cpj.org/2012/09/bahrain-should-scrap-life-sentence-of-blogger-alsi.php>,
> > how many human rights activists, journalists, and others actually use
> > them? "The tools are just too hard to learn. They take too long to
> > learn. And no one's going to learn them," a journalist for a major U.S.
> > news organization recently told me.
> > Who will help bridge the gap? Information-freedom technologists clearly
> > don't build free, open-source tools to get rich. They're motivated by
> > the recognition one gets from building an exciting, important new tool.
> > (Kind of like journalists breaking a story.) Training people in the use
> > of security tools or making those tools easier to use doesn't bring the
> > same sort of credit.
> > Or financial support. Donors--in good part, U.S. government agencies
> > <http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/R41120.pdf>--tend to back the
> > development of new tools rather than ongoing usability training and
> > development. But in doing so, technologists and donors are avoiding a
> > crucial question: Why aren't more people using security tools? These
> > days--20 years into what we now know as the Internet--usability testing
> > is key to every successful commercial online venture. Yet it is rarely
> > practiced in the Internet freedom community.
> > That may be changing. The anti-censorship circumvention tool Tor has
> > grown progressively easier to use, and donors and technologists are now
> > working to make it easier and faster still. Other tools, like Pretty
> > Good Privacy <http://www.pgpi.org/> or its slightly improved German
> > alternative <http://www.gnupg.org/>, still seem needlessly difficult to
> > operate. Partly because the emphasis is on open technology built by
> > volunteers, users are rarely if ever redirected how to get back on track
> > if they make a mistake or reach a dead end. This would be nearly
> > inconceivable today with any commercial application designed to help
> > users purchase a service or product.
> > Which brings us back to Cryptocat, the ever-so-easy tool that was not as
> > secure as it was once thought to be. For a time, the online debate among
> > technologists degenerated into thekind of vitriol
> > <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/08/security-researchers/all/> one
> > might expect to hear among, say, U.S. presidential campaigns. But wounds
> > have since healed and some critics are now working with Kobeissi to help
> > clean up and secure Cryptocat.
> > Life and death, prison and torture remain real outcomes
> > <http://www.cpj.org/reports/2011/12/journalist-imprisonments-jump-worldwide-and-iran-i.php>
> > for many users, and, as Ball noted in/Wired/, there are no security
> > shortcuts in hostile environments. But if tools remain too difficult for
> > people to use in real-life circumstances in which they are under duress,
> > then that is a security problem in itself.
> > The lesson of Cryptocat is that more learning and collaboration are
> > needed. Donors, journalists, and technologists can work together more
> > closely to bridge the gap between invention and use.
> > Frank Smyth is CPJ's senior adviser for journalist security. He has
> > reported on armed conflicts, organized crime, and human rights from
> > nations including El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Cuba, Rwanda,
> > Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Jordan, and Iraq. Follow him on
> > Twitter @JournoSecurity <https://twitter.com/#!/JournoSecurity>.
> > *Tags:*
> > * Cryptocat <http://www.cpj.org/tags/cryptocat>,
> > * Hacked <http://www.cpj.org/tags/hacked>,
> > * Internet <http://www.cpj.org/tags/internet>,
> > * Martus <http://www.cpj.org/tags/martus>,
> > * Nadim Kobeissi <http://www.cpj.org/tags/nadim-kobeissi>,
> > * Patrick Ball <http://www.cpj.org/tags/patrick-ball>,
> > * Pretty Good Privacy <http://www.cpj.org/tags/pretty-good-privacy>,
> > * Tor <http://www.cpj.org/tags/tor>
> > September 11, 2012 12:12 PM ET
> > Frank Smyth
> > Executive Director
> > Global Journalist Security
> > frank at journalistsecurity.net <mailto:frank at journalistsecurity.net>
> <mailto:frank at journalistsecurity.net
> > Tel. + 1 202 244 0717
> > Cell + 1 202 352 1736
> > Twitter: @JournoSecurity
> > Website: www.journalistsecurity.net <http://www.journalistsecurity.net>
> > PGP Public Key <http://www.journalistsecurity.net/franks-pgp-public-key>
> > Please consider our Earth before printing this email.
> > Confidentiality Notice: This email and any files transmitted with it are
> > confidential. If you have received this email in error, please notify
> > the sender and delete this message and any copies. If you are not the
> > intended recipient, you are notified that disclosing, copying,
> > distributing or taking any action in reliance on the contents of this
> > information is strictly prohibited.
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