The War We Live In: Hacking Capitalism and Data as the Steam of the Digital Age

We are at war, yes, but this is not an economic war. It is a world war against the economy. Against the economy that for thousands of years has been based on the exploitation of nature and man. And against a patched-up capitalism that will try to save its own skin by investing in natural power and making us pay the high price for that which — once the new means of production are created — will be free as the wind, the sun, and the energy of plants and soil. If we do not exit the economic reality and create a human reality in its place, we will once again allow market barbarism to live on. — Raoul Vaneigem (2009)

The War we live in today is waged via virtual and violent means. People are dying in Syria as they are supported by the digital infrastructure provided by the Telecomix network. People are going to jail in Europe and North America, and dying in the process for what they believe should be the future for humanity. Massive cyber-attacks are probably happening right now on large institutions of power in the powerful nations of the world. The United States government is using drone devices, an extremely high level technology, to kill its own citizens. Protestors are being tear gassed, having concussion grenades cast at them and dogs attack them. This is a war with technology and information at its centre; with access, distribution and ownership defining the battles. Surveillance is an important part of this conflict. A subject can be surveilled and intercepted from the information they provide online.

“Hacktivist cluster Telecomix released 54 gigabytes of Syrian censorship log data. The anonymized log data was collected from seven of 15 Bluecoat SG-9000 HTTP proxies used by Syrian government telco and ISP STE. Preliminary analysis revealed such keywords as proxy and Israel were blocked. And of course, much porn. The data set provides a unique look at Internet censorship from the inside. Internauts who enjoy regexes and charts are invited to help make a pretty infographic. Telecomix’s #opsyria has been fighting censorship and facilitating communications [note: French language link] in Syria, providing TOR, VPNs and technical advice and support via IRC. They’ve also been providing DNS service for The Pirate Bay.”

Aaron Swartz had his principles, and he held to them forcefully. “Aaron generally felt like being a stickler about that stuff made the world better, because it actually pushed people to do the right thing,” says Wikler. He wouldn’t sign any contracts that might encourage patent trolling. He was finicky about his wardrobe, wearing T-shirts whenever possible. “Suits,” he wrote on his blog, “are the physical evidence of power distance, the entrenchment of a particular form of inequality.”
He wasn’t dogmatic about everything. He’d always been opposed to marriage, but he was starting to think he’d gotten that wrong. On Friday, Jan. 11, Stinebrickner-Kauffman stopped over at Wikler’s house. She and Swartz were coming over for dinner later that night, but she came by herself beforehand. As she played with Wikler’s new baby, she mentioned that Swartz had told her that, after the case was resolved, he might consider getting married. If that was possible, anything was possible.
But less than two miles away, in a small and dark studio apartment, Aaron Swartz was already dead.The Idealist: Aaron Swatz wanted to save the world why couldn’t he save himself.

New Public Thinking #1: Reflections on 2011
(Ed. Dougald Hine & Keith Kahn-Harris)

Order your copy from PediaPress. Our first book began as an invitation to reflect on the events of 2011: to make sense of the changes going on in the world and in our own lives, and to voice the questions the year had left us with.

From Wikileaks to the UK riots, Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park, the headline events of the year all make their appearance, often from the perspective of those involved in or touched by them. Smári McCarthy writes about his experience as a Telecomix activist providing tech support to revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. Keri Facer examines her responses after riots come to the street she has just moved into. But these images sit alongside the less dramatic events that make up the fabric of our lives, and between the two a pattern begins to emerge.

Then there is register for a free copy of The Open Book global movement for open knowledge. From makerspaces to data wrangling schools to archives, the digital is being remixed by the open — and it is changing society as we know it. New concepts about public information, transparency and the Commons are combining in unprecedented ways, resulting in a breadth of transformative collaborations across the globe.

The Open Book explores the social and technological manifestations of this emergent movement for the first time. It features 25 in-depth thought pieces written by pioneers of openness around the world from London to São Paulo, including the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Rufus Pollock, the Free Software Foundation’s Karsten Gerloff, the Centre for Sustainable Communications’ Jorge Luis Zapico, The Guardian’s Simon Rogers, the Open Hardware Summit’s Catarina Mota, IBM’s Ville Peltola, Open Design Now‘s Peter Troxler and the Harvard Berkman Centre for Internet & Society’s Mayo Fuster Morell.

Each of these contributions explore a unique aspect of the open knowledge movement and how it has affected work, society and culture across paradigms, from government to business to design to education. Also included is “The Evolution of Open Knowledge”, the world’s first crowdsourced timeline of openness and transparency from 1425 to the current day.

The Open Book is an essential reference point for those interested in the culmination of a global movement for change in a time of rapid social progress. The book is a free PDF.

The News Media: The new frontline

Hacking is nothing new. Some do it for profit, others for secrets. Self-styled “hacktivist” groups such as Anonymous do it for causes they believe in. But what if the target is a newspaper and the hackers have a grudge?

On January 30 2013, the New York Times revealed that hackers based in China had waged a four-month-long cyber onslaught against the paper soon after it published an article exposing the fortune amassed by the family of outgoing premier Wen Jiabao, a fortune that for the Chinese Communist Party has turned out to be — quite literally — an embarrassment of riches.

Soon after the Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post admitted that they too had been attacked. Bloomberg News and Associated Press are also on the list of media outlets targeted by China-based hackers, raising the spectre of a new front in the global cyber war — one that puts journalists and their sources in the firing line.

In July 2016 Wikileaks released an email dump of 20, 000 emails from the Democratic National Committee, reportedly obtained via the Russian hacker groups Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear (this is apparently true, although it seems to ridiculous). According to the Americans:

Cozy Bear: Last year, the group (also known as CozyDuke or APT 29) hacked the White House, State Department and US Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as companies and government agencies in Western Europe, China, Brazil and many other countries. Preferred method: Broadly targeted spearphishing.
Fancy Bear: This group targets defense ministries and military officials in the U.S., Western Europe, Brazil, China, Iran and many other countries, as well as intrusions into the German Bundestag and France’s TV5 Monde TV last year. Preferred method: Registering domains that resemble legitimate domains and establishing phishing sites that spoof them.

The emails reveal the DNC acted against the nomination of Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Candidate. How far such bias and corruption go in the Democratic Party is yet to be revealed. It is clear that a culture exists within the Party that remains ‘business as usual’ regarding policies effecting the banking sector, foreign affairs, defence and education . In clarifying the release, Julian Assange of Wikileaks states it was made as a ‘data set’ and not via established news networks, as had been the case with the Iraq War Logs (2010) and the Snowden Files (2013). He states that his was done to avoid the biases that exist in the news networks regarding the major political parties.

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google (Right) with with the Iranian Foreign Minister (Left).

Eric Schmidt, the Google boss co-authored a book criticising the Chinese authorities. Google has clashed repeatedly with Beijing over censorship and alleged hacking. Schmidt called China the world’s “most sophisticated and prolific” hacker of foreign companies, in a book called The New Digital Age. The book, co-written with Jared Cohen, a former state department official who now runs a Google think tank, brands China as the world’s most dangerous superpower.

At the same time Eric Schmidt signed a 60 million euro deal with the French President Francoise Hollande to be able to link to French publications without having to pay tax on the advertising revenue it earns.

Eric Schmidt spoke at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at Cambridge University. He gave a convincing and intelligent account of what life could be like in a globalized society where connectivity is the steam of a new industrial revolution. During the series of talks Schmidt claimed that open networks will prevent genocide.

Anonymous’ ‘Operation Last Resort’ from 2013 had an astonishing amount of access to The Fed’s internal files and servers.

Barrett Brown (pictured), a man who became a very public talking head for AnonOps (the brain trust that is arguably the cortex of the hacktivist group Anonymous, even though there technically isn’t one) was sentenced in January 2015, to 63 months in federal prison for the crimes of accessory after the fact, obstruction of justice, and threatening a federal officer stemming from the FBI’s investigation into the 2012 Stratfor email leak.

Prosecutors had previously brought other charges associated with his sharing of an HTTP link to the leaked Stratfor data, but those charges were dropped in 2014. Brown was released from prison on November 29, 2016 and moved into a halfway house with five drug dealers close to downtown Dallas, Texas.

A multinational security firm has secretly developed software capable of tracking people’s movements and predicting future behaviour by mining data from social networking websites.

An “extreme-scale analytics” system created by Raytheon, the world’s fifth largest defence contractor, can gather vast amounts of information about people from websites including Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.
Raytheon says it has not sold the software — named Riot, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology — to any clients.

But the Massachusetts-based company has acknowledged the technology was shared with US government and industry as part of a joint research and development effort, in 2010, to help build a national security system capable of analysing “trillions of entities” from cyberspace. (Guardian)

Society has been infiltrated by new digital technologies with potentially profound consequences. It makes sense to ask what’s changed? How has it changed? How much? Researchers and companies have gathered enormous amounts of data to ostensibly answer these questions, but the full implications of this data too often go unexplored. The Web is not a new, separate sphere, but part of the same social reality about which critical social theorists have produced several centuries worth of insight. These theories may be profitably used, tweaked, or even abandoned in light of contemporary realities. What previous theoretical tools help us understand these changes? What new theories should be created?

The documentary about the founders of the Pirate Bay. Share it with the world! Support the filmmakers of this free film here A film by Simon Klose

Simon Klose, the Swedish documentary and music video maker, wants you to pirate his film, TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard, and he’s not even kidding. His documentary about file-sharing website The Pirate Bay is available for sale, on YouTube (free), or via Pirate Bay torrent (also free).

The documentary covers the stories of Pirate Bay administrators Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, and Peter Sunde as they handle their 2009 Sweden court case about civil and criminal copyright laws. After being convicted, they are then forced to handle life “away from keyboard”.

Gottfrid Svartholm Warg was taken into police custody on 1 September 2012, when he was arrested and later extradited to Sweden from Cambodia. Upon arrival back to Sweden he was immediately arrested for suspicion of hacking Logica, a Swedish IT company that works with the local tax authorities. He was kept in solitary for up to 23 hours a day until December 7, 2012 while serving his one year sentence. The prosecution kept extending custody and later implicated him in a second hacking case along with accusations of four instances of serious fraud and four attempted frauds. Again, no official charges were filed. After spending three years in different prisons from Sweden and Denmark, he was eventually released on 29 September 2015. He was the last of the Pirate Bay founders to be released from prison.

Alisa Shevchenko (Russian: Алиса Шевченко), also known as Alisa “Esage” Shevchenko and Alisa Esage, is a Russian hacker, known for working with companies to find vulnerabilities in their systems. A self-described “offensive security researcher,” she focuses on finding vulnerabilities, including zero-days. She began learning to code at the age of 15. According to a 2014 profile in Forbes Russia, Shevchenko was more drawn to hacking than programming. After dropping out of school she worked as a virus analytics expert for Kaspersky Labs for five years. In 2009, she founded the company Esage Labs, later known as ZOR Security. (the Russian acronym stands for Цифровое оружие и защита, “Digital Weapons and Defense.”)

Shevchenko was placed on US sanctions list for allegedly ‘helping Vladimir Putin bid to swing the [2016] election for Trump’, Regarding White House accusations that Shevchenko had been involved in hacking the US election, in an interview Shevchenko is on record as noting that authorities either misinterpreted facts or were deceived.

Originally published at on July 27, 2016.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.