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Syria’s Embattled Dissidents Grapple with Government Hackers, Wiretappers and Imposters - TIME

Leila locks the front door and shuts the entrance to the hallway. As she walks into the innermost room of the house, she lightly taps her bedroom door with the back of her heel causing it to slowly creak closed. Nervous and silent, the young Syrian revolutionary lowers a solitary window and — to drown out any conversation from prying ears — she tunes a large TV to a state channel playing a Syrian soap opera. The house secure, Leila collapses onto a single bed in the corner of the room and breathes out a sigh. “I can speak now,” she says, looking over and smiling.

Leila is one of thousands of covert activists operating in Syria where protests have been met with violence by security forces during the past 10 weeks. Human rights groups here say more than 1,000 people have been killed and more than 10,000 arrested. In a country where simply voicing political dissent can lead to imprisonment, the anti-regime movement here has been pushed underground turning it into a disjointed mish-mash of demonstrators who have no clear plan or strategy. (See photos of the protests in Syria.)

It has become almost impossible for Leila to communicate with other activists. Land lines are tapped in Syria and the government has made sure all mobile phone calls can be traced — a passport or I.D. card scan and a thumbprint are needed to buy a SIM card. Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter played a pivotal role in the recent revolution in Egypt to help organize and direct the protest movement via the Internet. But in Syria the opposite is true. Everyone knows that government hackers monitor emails, Facebook and Twitter closely.

In fact, the burgeoning protest movement here seems to have increased the government’s resolve to spy on its own citizens. Facebook had been blocked in Syria, but the ban was lifted unexpectedly this year — perhaps, as many suggest, because the government realized Facebook could be used as a tool to identify dissidents. Last week, the Washington Post cited unnamed U.S. officials as saying Iran, a close ally of Syria, was sending sophisticated surveillance equipment to Damascus to assist in tracking down opponents on the internet. The Post reported that the same techniques were used in Iran to quash the pro-democracy “Green Movement” in 2009.

"There is minimal organization now," Leila says, shrugging. "We are so afraid of the security services that we can’t do anything. I never use my phone." To know where to go and protest, Leila says, anonymous Facebook users will post the names of suburbs where a demonstration has been planned for a particular day, "but not the exact place." Once in the suburb, Leila will meander through the streets, hoping to find the march. If police stop her, she might pretend to be visiting a relative, oblivious to any planned demonstration.

Occasionally, there are false alarms. “I try to keep in touch with people I trust. There have been times when I’ve heard about a protest in an area of the city, but when I arrived, there was nothing,” she says. Activists say the secret police sometimes spread rumors of a protest to lure in dissidents, only to ambush and arrest everyone on arrival. (See “Syria: If Protesters Don’t Get Assad, the Economy Will.”)

Only in large numbers can the protesters avoid arrest. “People hide banners with anti-government slogans written on them underneath their clothes,” Leila explains. “Once they feel safe in a crowd, they will pull the banners out and start chanting for the overthrowing of Bashar [al-Assad, the Syrian President].”

With foreign journalists barred from entering Syria, the only evidence of the beating and shooting of hundreds of protesters has been amateur videos filmed by demonstrators — often on their mobile phones — and posted on YouTube. “This is what the government really hates,” a journalist in Damascus says. “It’s the documenting of human rights violations that could land President Assad in the International Criminal Court.”

One activist, who asked to remain anonymous, says that plainclothes police have started pretending to be protesters filming the demonstrations, only to later use the footage to identify and incriminate activists. “Many of my friends were arrested and shown footage of themselves at protests,” he says, adding that the secret police are given passwords to use in case they are accidentally mistaken for protesters and arrested. (See why there’s a pretense of calm in Syria’s capital.)

Leila says it is easier for men to rally. The main day for demonstrations has been Fridays; the day Muslim men attend sermons at the mosque. “Most men will wait until Friday prayers,” Leila says as she pours hot water into a glass of mate, a caffeinated drink popular in Syria. “Even Christians are now going because they know that the mosque is a safe place to gather,” she adds. Once there are enough people, the men flood out onto the streets and start chanting.

But now, state security has managed to hamper these after-prayers protests. Men entering mosques where protests have occurred in the past are asked for their identity cards. “It’s a form of intimidation. They are saying: ‘We know who you are and will come and get you if you protest,’” Leila says. To the anger and frustration of activists, the secret police have started entering mosques and observing sermons from the back of the room, glaring. When the protests do materialize in the capital, they are dispersed quickly with tear gas and live ammunition. Police raid nearby houses afterward to hunt those who may have escaped arrest, according to activists.

Still, the efforts of Syria’s state security services is met with equally unremitting resolve by activists like Leila in what has become a game of cat and mouse. A student in her early 20s, Leila is smart and ambitious. But like the thousands of secret protesters across Syria, she is petrified. “If they find out about me I could hide,” she says, her dark almond-shaped eyes gazing into her glass, “but they will go after my family.”

Pls help! Another Facebook page this time for outting students who have protested the Bahrain regime

Please report this facebook page, it has posted more than 100 images of students, teachers and doctors that are risked being arrested or killed.

Please choose “Violence” > “Credible threat” while reporting. It could well save lives!الرجاء التبليغ عن الصفحة و الصور اللي فيها … فيها صور العشرات من الطلبة و الاطباء و المدرسون و غيرهم معرضين للاعتقال و القتل .. لنغلق الصفحة
https://www.facebook.com/elaba
 hrain

Pls help! Facebook page outs Bahraini hospital staff who treated injured protesters and protested the brutality

We have discovered a shocking page on Facebook set up for identifying Bahraini doctors and nurses and their families, calling them traitors, and getting them arrested simply for treating the injured pro-democracy protesters and for protesting the regime’s brutality. The page is in Arabic but we have used Google to translate it into English and taken a screenshot of it for those who can’t read Arabic. Names and faces have been blurred.

Please help get this dangerous page shut down. We have been reporting the page to facebook but it seems facebook staff are either on holidays or don’t care. If there are enough reports they might hurry up and close it down.

_together_to_uncover_the_traitors_drs__2011-04-25_18-29-21bahrain
Video - Breaking News Videos from CNN.com - Syria’s most wanted cyber activist
Campaign | Facebook Unfriend The Dictators
Facebook should be congratulated and condemned in one go: they’ve built a revolutionary platform that’s catalyzed the political change sweeping the Middle East and beyond, but Facebook has also become a treasure trove of information for dictators, allowing them to identify and track down those who oppose them. In fact, under the existing Facebook platform all our photos, details, and contacts are at risk from identity thieves and hackers. While Facebook is reevaluating its policies, please sign the petition to protect our privacy and others’ very security.

Dear Mark and the Facebook Board: “We acknowledge the extraordinary role that Facebook is playing in facilitating communications across the globe, and we call upon you to take immediate steps to protect your users’ privacy and security. Specifically, you should secure your entire platform with HTTPS, allow users anonymity in high risk areas, protect human rights defenders with special security measures, and resist the handover of users’ information.”

Facebook privacy, anonymity and security settings for activists from the Syrian Free Press facebook page.

عليمات السلامة والأمان اتبعها

هذه تعليمات تقنية لمستخدي الفيسبوك في سوريا

إستعمال الأيميل غير آمن لأنه يحدد المنطقة التي والمخدم الذي أرسل منه الأيميل ورقم الاي بي

في البداية نرجو إنشاء حساب وهمي

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نرجو الانتباه لخيارات السرية واخفاء بياناتك … مثل  الصفحات يلي مشترك فيها او الايميل الذي استعملته لانشاء

الحساب والطريقة هي كالتالي

Account —> Privacy Setting —> Customise settings —>

أنزل القائمة واختر منها كوستوم

Custom —>

انزل القائمة واختر منها فقط انا

only me

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هل تريد أخفاء قائمة الأصدقاء … هي سهلة

Account —> Privacy Setting —> Control basic information your friends will use to find you on Facebook. View settings

لما بتكبس على اظاهر الاعدادات بتلاقي وحدة منهم اسمها

See your friend list

أنزل القائمة واختر منها كوستوم

Custom —>

انزل القائمة واختر منها فقط انا

only me

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أخي السوري الحبيب: لا تنس تفعيل خيار التصفح الآمن

Account —> Account Settings —> Account Security —>Secure Browsing (https

الحساب —— اعدادات الحساب ——- امان الحساب ———- اختار

…https

وبذلك سيتم تشفير إتصالك بالفيسبوك .. ولن يتمكن أحد من معرفة ماترسل او تستقبل من صفحة الفيسبوك

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ملاحظة اخيرة للناس يلي داخلة باسماء وهمية

انتبه ما تسأل تفاصيل كتير عن الاشخاص ولا تجاوب على اسئلة كتير

عندك 3 اسئلة مقبولة

من اي محافظة سورية … وبأي دولة انت عايش هلأ … وكم تقريباً عمرك

واي سؤال زيادة بيكون تفصيل زايد وما اله اي داعي

استخدم هذا البرنامج أيضا من أجل الحماية

https://www.torproject.org/

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis

يمكن أيضا استخدام البرنامج التالي لكن من معبياته كثرة الإعلانات و لكن لا يجب أن يشكل ذلك مشكلة للأخوة السوريين فالأمن أهم شيء

http://www.hotspot-shield.com/

  • Secure your web session, data, online shopping, and personal information online with HTTPS encryption.
  • Protect yourself from identity theft online.
  • Hide your IP address for your privacy online.
  • Access all content privately without censorship; bypass firewalls.
  • Protect yourself from snoopers at Wi-Fi hotspots, hotels, airports, corporate offices.\
  • 100% Free

via facebook.com

Third Intifada Facebook Boycott on 10 and 11 April