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WhatsApp’s new encryption won’t protect you unless you’re also doing all these things April 6, 2016

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Whatsapp adds end-to-end encryption; Viber to by-pass blockage



WhatsApp made waves yesterday with its decision to switch on end-to-end encryption for all its billion-plus users. “End-to-end” means the communication is encrypted before it leaves your phone and decrypted only after it reaches the other person’s phone, so nobody else, not even WhatsApp itself, can read or listen to it.

Encryption alone isn’t much help unless all the following things are happening as well.


You’re not storing messages on your phone

If you really need a message to stay secret, delete it after it’s read. If someone gets hold of your phone (e.g. by stealing it) and can get into it—as the FBI has now done with the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter—everything that’s on there will still be accessible. Some messaging apps, such as Telegram, have an “auto-destruct” feature that deletes messages from the phone after a set period of time. WhatsApp currently doesn’t. (Telegram, on the other hand, doesn’t use end-to-end encryption by default; you have to choose it.)


You’re not backing up messages to the cloud

WhatsApp doesn’t store your messages on its servers. But in an iPhone, for instance, you can tell WhatsApp to keep a backup of messages in iCloud, Apple’s cloud storage service. Once the information is in the cloud, it could be subpoenaed by a government.

Read more at: WhatsApp’s new encryption won’t protect you unless you’re also doing all these things — Quartz


(The Guardian) — From strict privacy policies to its origins in Israel, there are a few things that distinguish Viber, the upstart free calls and messaging application, from its more established rival Skype. But the feature its 200 million international followers seem to appreciate most is the stickers.

A selection of images that can be texted as an alternative to written messages, the stickers available include love hearts, a red rose, the obligatory LOL, and the controversial middle finger hand gesture. There have been outraged calls for its removal.

Viber founder Talmon Marco is listening. “It will not be available by default with the next release of Viber,” he says.

Having begun life three years ago in the Israeli iPhone app store, before going international and onto other mobile platforms including Android, Blackberry and Windows, Viber took the fight to Skype’s home turf by launching a desktop version in May. Downloads onto personal computers are already in the millions.

Speaking from Singapore, Marco is busy preparing the next two important milestones. The first is a sticker store. While this may not sound momentous, it represents the company’s first foray into money making.

The app and all its current services, including calls between Viber users, will remain free. But in order to transform itself into a real business, Viber must search for revenues.

“We announced earlier this year that we will start monetising. The first thing we are going to announce is a sticker store, but we will be introducing additional paid services as early as this year.”

The second development, which is already being tested in Saudi Arabia, is technology that can stop Viber being blocked. During its rapid expansion, Viber has occasionally met resistance from both mobile networks and some of the more authoritarian states.

For some time, many Vodafone customers have been unable to use Viber without disruption, particularly those on pay-as-you-go tariffs, says Marco. Mobile operators have previously voiced concerns about free calls and messaging apps as a threat to their own revenues.

And there has been government opposition. Iran, Syria and Lebanon have all lifted previous blocks on Viber, but the service was recently barred by the Saudi Arabian authorities. Marco says the ban was introduced after Saudi officials indicated to Skype, Viber and the popular messaging service Whatsapp that they would be blocked if they did not agree to be monitored.

Social networks have allowed unprecedented freedom to communicate in Saudi Arabia, propelling a steep adoption curve. They are also relied on by the nation’s many foreign workers as a cheap way to keep in touch with families abroad.

“A few days ago we launched a test of Viber with enhanced connectivity,” says Marco. “This version allows users to connect in places where Viber is blocked. At present we have several thousand users in Saudi Arabia that can access Viber despite the local ban. Once the technology is rolled out, we will likely roll it out to Vodafone UK users as well.”

Marco says he is serious about the right to communicate, and the ability to do so in privacy. Viber’s policy is that if it receives a proper subpoena, it will provide records of who made and received calls, and when, but that no content from those conversations will be shared.

He says Viber does not “have the capability to listen to conversations”. Messages are stored, for two weeks or until they are opened by the recipient, whichever is shorter. Around 80% are deleted in less than a second. The messages are encrypted, and Marco says he has never handed the encryption key to any government.

“We have been asked if we would co-operate. We never provided anybody with anything that will let them listen to conversations or messages on Viber. I do believe people should take notice of the fact that the Saudi government has threatened three companies with shutdown of service – us, Skype and Whatsapp. Only one company was shut down. Users should ask themselves why the other companies were not shut down.”

In fact, Marco has himself been accused by at least one blogger of being an agent of the Israeli state. The rather sketchy claims are based on his military career. He spent four years in the Israel Defence Forces, rising to chief information officer of the central command.

But Viber was funded entirely by what Marco refers to as “friends and family”. “We never took a single dollar from the state of Israel, we are not even incorporated in Israel. We maintain a research and development centre in Israel and that’s it.”

For now, Viber is growing quickly. With just 120 staff, based in Cyprus and Belarus as well as Marco’s homeland, the app is being downloaded by more than 500,000 people a day and reached 200m downloads in May. Last time Viber released information on usage, in February, it was carrying 3bn minutes of calls and 12bn text messages every month. It has some way to go to catch up with Skype – which in April announced 2bn calls a day.

But on the mobile phone, if the iPhone app store reviews are to be believed, Viber is better liked. Skype’s transition to mobile has been rocky, with users complaining the service crashes. Most give Skype a one-star rating on iPhone, while Viber receives the maximum of five stars from most of its reviewers.

Time will tell whether revelations by the Guardian and other media about the extent of Skype’s cooperation with intelligence agencies will harm its business. But Marco believes individuals should care.

“Personally, I would be concerned being on a service knowing that everybody can listen to my conversations,” he says. “People should be concerned about their privacy.”




Telesurtv: Ethiopia’s Oromo Protest ‘Development,’ Displacement and Death. #OromoProtests April 6, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests.
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Events in Oromia have been described as the worst civil unrest in a decade.

#OromoProtests iconic picture

Ethiopia’s Oromo Protest ‘Development,’ Displacement and Death

By Belén Fernández,  6 April 2016

Events in Oromia have been described as the worst civil unrest in a decade.

(telesurtv) — “This government is at least better than previous ones,” remarked a 74-year-old Eritrean man to me last month in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, his longtime residence. Clad in a tattered grey suit and speaking to me in Italian, the man was peddling a book of useful Amharic phrases he had compiled for the foreign visitor, proceeds of which would go toward the purchase of a second-hand comforter for his bed.

As it turned out, his assessment of the relative superiority of the current Ethiopian administration was for good reason: two of his children had been killed by a previous ruling outfit, the Derg military junta that took power in 1974 and began eliminating suspected opponents in droves.

Although that particularly bloody epoch came to an end in 1991, many a resident of Ethiopia might nowadays still have cause to complain about homicidal activity by the state. In the Oromia region surrounding Addis Ababa, for example, there are claims that more than 200 people have been killed by Ethiopian security forces since November 2015, when protests broke out in response to the government’s so-called “Master Plan” to expand the boundaries of the capital by a factor of 20.

As a Newsweek article explains, the Oromo inhabitants of the region viewed the plan as “an attempted land grab that could result in the forced eviction of Oromo farmers and the loss of valuable arable land in a country regularly plagued by drought.”

This was no doubt a valid concern given the government’s established tradition of wantonly displacing Ethiopians in the interest of “development”—that handy euphemism for removing human obstacles to the whims of international and domestic investment capital.

Comprising some 35 percent of the population, the Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group and have regularly decried discrimination by the ruling coalition party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), which is dominated by ethnic Tigrayan interests. Politically motivated detention, incarceration, and other abuses have long characterized the landscape in Oromia, and the current protests have seen children as young as eight arrested.

Apparently, torture has also been a difficult habit for security forces to break.

And while the government has opted to shelve the Master Plan for now, protests in Oromia have continued. When I recently visited the town of Woliso, one of many protest sites in the region, residents pointed out that cancelling the plan wouldn’t bring back the dead people.

Events in Oromia have been described as the worst civil unrest in a decade. The United States, never too quick to condemn the excesses of its African ally, helpfully responded by emitting a “security message” for U.S. citizens and restricting the movements in Oromia of its government personnel; the British government, for its part, provided a color-coded map of Ethiopia on which a vast chunk of land around Woliso is designated inadvisable for “all but essential travel.”

Even without the Master Plan, meanwhile, the government is doing a decent job of courting investors. As I traveled west from Addis Ababa toward Woliso — a journey of about two hours — I passed sprawling factory complexes, including one featuring a Turkish flag flying alongside its more indigenous counterparts.

A January report by the Ethiopian News Agency outlines the government’s goal of luring Turkish and other investors to “priority areas” as part of an overall scheme to convert the economy from agriculture- to industry-based. Noting that “about 110 Turkish investment projects have become operational” and that “incentives from the government includ[e] electricity and cheap labor,” the report highlights the exploits of the Ayka Addis textile factory 20 kilometers west of the Ethiopian capital, in the Oromia region.

Launched in 2010 with a price tag of US$140 million, the Turkish factory is said to occupy several hundred thousand square meters of land.

The website of the Ethiopian Investment Commission furthermore lists Ayka Addis as one of “a number of private Industrial Zones” in Ethiopia, described as “success stories.” The site, which advertises thousands of hectares worth of “investment opportunities” in the country, cites perks including exemptions from customs duties for machinery and other equipment as well as certain exemptions from income taxes.

Indeed, the EPRDF can point to double-digit economic growth over recent years to justify plowing ahead with its development model. But there’s more to life than GDP — as sizable poverty-stricken sectors of the Ethiopian population can presumably confirm.

If we want to consider other, less superficial digits, we might take a look at the estimated 10.2 million Ethiopians currently “in need of urgent food assistance”— as reported, perhaps ironically, in a March edition of the English-language Ethiopian newspaper Capital, “the paper that promotes free enterprise.”

Additional troublesome statistics are contained in a 2014 BBC dispatch titled “The village where half the people are at risk of blindness.” The village in question is Kuyu, located in the Oromia region; the risk is due to infectious trachoma, “the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness.”

At the time of the article’s publication, 200,000 people were reportedly in danger of trachoma-induced blindness in Oromia alone. Quoted in the piece is one Simon Bush of the Sightsavers organization, who remarks that trachoma is “a disease of poverty” that is “endemic in areas which have poor access to water and sanitation.”

All of this is merely to point out that, in the end, a lot of people in Oromia and beyond might have greater priorities than, say, income tax immunity for international developers. Because it doesn’t take a functioning eyeball to see that such development models are themselves in need of some serious development.

Belén Fernández is the author of “The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work,” published by Verso. She is a contributing editor at Jacobin magazine.




Growing public dissatisfaction with ‘rent seeking’ and corruption in the ruling party and government culminated recently in the unprecedented Oromo protests.



Egypt defends treatment of Oromo refugees April 6, 2016

Posted by OromianEconomist in Uncategorized.
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Odaa Oromoo#OromoProtests against the Ethiopian regime fascist tyranny. Join the peaceful movement for justice, democracy, development and freedom of Oromo and other oppressed people in Ethiopia

Egypt defends treatment of Ethiopian refugees

Ethiopian migrants, all members of the Oromo community of Ethiopia living in Malta, protest against the Ethiopian regime in Valletta, Malta, Dec. 21, 2015.  (photo by REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi)


CAIRO (Almonitor, April 5, 2016) — On March 13, nearly 1,000 people of the Oromo ethnic community took part in a big ceremony celebrating the second anniversary of the Oromia Media Network (OMN), which opposes the ruling regime in Ethiopia.

The ceremony was the first event held by the Ethiopian opposition in Cairo since theoutbreak of violence in Ethiopia between the government and the ethnic community in December. The violence arose over Ethiopia’s “master plan” to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into large parts of Oromo farmlands without any actual compensation.

At that time, Egypt’s Foreign Affairs Ministry contented itself with issuing a press statement on Dec. 21, saying that the incidents “are an internal Ethiopian issue.”

“We are looking forward to stability and the completion of the comprehensive economic and social development programs in Ethiopia,” the ministry said.

Yet local Ethiopian media outlets continued to circulate statements by Ethiopian officials accusing Cairo of supporting the opposition and of being behind these events in order to weaken Ethiopia. These statements were based on the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s remarks in November 2010 that there was irrefutable evidence of Egypt’s support for insurgents in Ethiopia, under the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak.

At the second anniversary ceremony, OMN head Jawar Mohammed spoke of the need for the Oromo uprising to continue against the policies of the Ethiopian government and the ruling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) party. He accused the government of adopting systematic policies against the Oromo community and of seizing its land.

A government official who coordinates African affairs and spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity said, “The Egyptian authorities have nothing to do with the ceremony.”

He explained, “A group of Ethiopian activists applied for a security approval for the ceremony, which they obtained, similarly to any other foreign communities wishing to hold activities in Cairo.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) fact sheet issued in February said 6,916 Ethiopian asylum seekers are registered with the UNHCR in Cairo.

“Most of the Ethiopians who are registered with the UNHCR are of the Oromo people, whose registration rate has been constant since 2015,” Marwa Hashem, assistant public information officer for the UNHCR in Cairo, told Al-Monitor.

“The UNHCR have provided all political asylum seekers and refugees from Africa with services such as material aid to the most needy, educational grants, health care and psychosocial support.”

Ahmad Badawi, head of the Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Support, told Al-Monitor, “Egypt is committed to its international obligations not to reject asylum seekers when they do not oppose national security, even those who enter illegally.”

The Egyptian government does not provide any special advantages to Ethiopian refugees without providing the same to other foreign nationals, he said. UNHCR is in charge of providing services to all refugees.

The Oromo ethnic community makes up 40% of Ethiopia’s population, followed by the Amhara and Tigrayan communities, which make up 32% — though Tigrayans control the government through the ruling TPLF party. The Oromia Regional State stretches over large areas in central Ethiopia, where the capital is located, and includes most of Ethiopia’s wealth, as it controls the country’s coffee exports, gold mines and the rivers’ headwaters.

Due to the escalating protests, the Ethiopian government canceled the plan to expand the capital. Yet the Oromo revolution has not ended, as the people continue to demand freedom and fair representation in the government and to protest the ruling party’s practices.

“The Oromo community will continue to protest not only against the Ethiopian government’s master plan, which raised problems in the past, but also to preserve the Oromo ethnic community’s land, culture and language, against the ethnic policies of the Tigrayan who control the rule,” Girma Gutema, an Oromo community activist, told Al-Monitor.

“Eritrea and Sudan supported the Oromo struggle. Yet following the Sudanese-Ethiopian rapprochement, many rebels fled to Eritrea,” Gutema said. However, the Egyptians, as well as the international community, don’t know enough about the Oromo community’s problems to be able to offer support.

Such rumors, he said, are propaganda spread by the Ethiopian government due to its historic bickering with Egypt.

Galma Guluma, an Ethiopian political activist and organizer of the ceremony in Cairo, told Al-Monitor that Cairo is the safest place for Oromo people fleeing Ethiopia, particularly sinceSudan changed its policy and is now turning over Ethiopian oppositionists to their government.

“Fleeing to Cairo was not an easy thing to do. Many refugees went through difficult situations and conditions until they reached the Egyptian border,” Guluma said. “Most of the Oromo refugees in Cairo do not have permanent jobs, and some girls are working as domestic servants. Moreover, they receive very little aid from the civil society organizations.”

Guluma added, “We do not have weapons to face the regime in Ethiopia. Our goal is to focus on [getting] the media to speak of the suffering of the Oromo people,” who are oppressed despite the great wealth in their state.

He noted, “Cairo has been a historical place for the Oromo struggle and the idea of the media network and Oromo radio started in Cairo more than 50 years ago with SheikhMohammed Rashad, who studied at the Al-Azhar University in the 1960s and was honored by [former Egyptian President] Gamal Abdel Nasser.”

The Egyptian political administration has said that, while it seeks to build trust and goodwill, its open-door policy for Oromo refugees is part of an international commitment to the refugees’ case and should not be perceived as an attempt to exploit any internal conflicts to weaken the Ethiopian state.

Nevertheless, this issue remains a focus of constant tension in Egyptian-Ethiopian ties, in addition to the historic conflict over Nile water management.