Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance

July 21st, 2016

Completely separate from the Section 1201 lawsuit against the Department of Justice, I’m working with the FPF on a project to counter lawful abuses of digital surveillance. Here’s the abstract:

Front-line journalists are high-value targets, and their enemies will spare no expense to silence them. Unfortunately, journalists can be betrayed by their own tools. Their smartphones are also the perfect tracking device. Because of the precedent set by the US’s “third-party doctrine,” which holds that metadata on such signals enjoys no meaningful legal protection, governments and powerful political institutions are gaining access to comprehensive records of phone emissions unwittingly broadcast by device owners. This leaves journalists, activists, and rights workers in a position of vulnerability. This work aims to give journalists the tools to know when their smart phones are tracking or disclosing their location when the devices are supposed to be in airplane mode. We propose to accomplish this via direct introspection of signals controlling the phone’s radio hardware. The introspection engine will be an open source, user-inspectable and field-verifiable module attached to an existing smart phone that makes no assumptions about the trustability of the phone’s operating system.

You can find out more about the project by reading the white paper at Pubpub.

Name that Ware July 2016

July 12th, 2016

The ware for July 2016 is shown below.

Thanks to Mark Jessop for contributing this wonderful ware. It’s a real work of art on the front side, but google makes it way too easy to identify with a couple part number queries. To make it a smidgen more challenging, I decided to start this month’s competition with just the back side of the board. If the photo above doesn’t give enough clues, I’ll add a photo of the front side as well…

Winner, Name that Ware June 2016

July 12th, 2016

The Ware for June 2016 is an ATS810C by ATS Automation. There’s no information on their website about this particular board, but there’s lots of good ideas in the comments as to what this could be from. However, none of them have me 100% convinced. So I’ll just go with the first answer that generally identified the ware as a stepper motor controller with RS-232 interface by notafile. Congrats, email me for your prize!

Episode 4: Reinventing 35 years of Innovation

June 28th, 2016

Episode 4 is out!

It’s a daunting challenge to document a phenomenon as diverse as Shenzhen, so I don’t envy the task of trying to fit it in four short episodes.

Around 6:11 I start sounding like a China promo clip. This is because as a foreigner, I’m a bit cautious about saying negative things about a country, especially when I’m a guest of that country.

I really love the part at 3:58 where Robin Wu, CEO of Meegopad, reflects on the evolution of the term Shanzhai in China:

I was one of the people who made Shanzhai products. In the past, everyone looked down on Shanzhai products. Now, I think the idea of the maker is the same as Shanzhai. Shanzhai is not about copying. Shanzhai is a spirit.

Episode 3: A New Breed of Intellectual Property

June 21st, 2016

Episode 3 is out!

I say the darndest things on camera. O_o

Like everyone else, I see the videos when they are released. So far, this episode makes the clearest case for why Shenzhen is the up-and-coming place for hardware technology.

Most of the time my head is buried in resistors and capacitors. However, this video takes a wide-angle shot of the tech ecosystem. I’ve been visiting for over a decade, and this video is the first time I’ve seen some of the incredible things going on in Shenzhen, particularly in the corporate world.