Encrypted Chatrooms & VoIP Applications

Encrypted chatrooms and VoIP services, such as like WhatsApp and Telegram, are not only great for business communications, but they critically important for human rights defenders and political activists fighting around the world – especially in at risk or oppressive countries. It is important to understand that even if you are living in a country which has banned Tor, VPN’s or applications such as Telegram, and you are afraid to use/install those programs out of fear of persecution, encrypted chatrooms can be equally as easy to use and remain 100% legal to boot.

For example, even in countries like Egypt, Iran, Pakistan – et cetera – which have either outright or periodically banned VoIP services such as Telegram and Viber, other chatroom-based services like Chatbox or Slack are still free and legal to own, and can be used to protect private communications all the same. In fact, political activists in countries such as Ethiopia and Egypt are known to have used encrypted chat services to safely coordinate communications, rallies and protests in times of great civil unrest, such as during the Oromo protests and Rabba Massacre. I know this because I was there on the front-lines helping to set up their accounts.

It’s usually free to sign up for these services, and all you need is a verified email address or phone number to login. Then, once enrolled, you can encrypt your chatroom by setting up a custom name/URL for it and requiring password authentication for entry. This assures that only the people you give the URL address to will be able to find it, and only those who know the password to it will be able to enter. Additionally, once set up, you can even set up individual channels within the chatroom itself for a duel level of security/encryption. This includes setting custom rules for different channels, such as requiring Administrator approval for access. This assures that if even someone is able to brute-force their way into your chatroom itself, there are still protocols in place to protect individual communications and information within the chatroom itself.

Additionally, especially if you are doing activism or human rights work, or feel that your life/security could be in danger for the work you do, it is always recommended to never use your real life identity or personal email accounts to set up an encrypted chatroom or channel. Instead, you should always create an online alias and use it to register a new account within an encrypted email service provider, such as ProtonMail or Tutanota. Obviously, this advice need not apply for those of you who are using these services for business purposes. Lastly, some chatroom services actually offer built in video chats, allowing for a third means to make secure voice connections outside of standard phone calls or VoIP services.

For more information on how to keep a safe, private and Anonymous identity online, please read the following tutorial: https://anonhq.com/anonymous-security-guide-2-0/

For more information on different encrypted email service providers and how you can make the switch, please read the following link: https://roguemedia.co/2019/11/02/making-the-switch-to-encrypted-emails-2/

Best/Top Chatroom Service Providers:

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP):

While VoIP services are not necessarily essential for everyday phone use, they do offer critical protections for political activists, journalists, researchers and citizens living under oppressive regimes all around the world. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, which is just a fancy way of saying they transport all calls and messages over established internet connections, rather than routing them through your telecommunications or phone service provider – such as AT&T or Verizon.

In areas like the United States and European Union, VoIP services are important to own because they prevent your data from being intercepted, recorded or stolen by telecommunications companies and other interested 3rd parties, such as Governments, thus protecting any information you send across the wires. VoIP services also offer the ability to encrypt messages or calls between like users, further protecting customer privacy. By comparison, both of these options are unavailable on standard text messages or phone calls straight from your phone provider. In politically oppressive countries around the world, VoIP services are even more important because they offer a critical means to bypass Government imposed restrictions or blockades on national telecommunications on a local level, while also allowing users to make international calls entirely for free.

While this might sound a bit complex or advanced, once installed, operating a VoIP connection/application is no more different or complicated than making a regular phone call or sending traditional text messages. Instead of using your normal texts messages or phone App, you simply download a VoIP App and log into that to make/receive calls and texts – it’s literally that easy. Lastly, VoIP connections offer a secondary means to reach your contacts, should your phone lose service, go out of cell tower range or come under blackout. Rather than relying on the signal strength of your network service provider of choice, all you need is an active internet connection to utilize a VoIP services.

The Best/Top VoIP Service Providers:

 

Investigative Report: How Mass Surveillance Works Inside China

(HRW) – Chinese authorities are using a mobile app to carry out illegal mass surveillance and arbitrary detention of Muslims in China’s western Xinjiang region. The Human Rights Watch report, “China’s Algorithms of Repression’: Reverse Engineering a Xinjiang Police Mass Surveillance App,” presents new evidence about the surveillance state in Xinjiang, where the government has subjected 13 million Turkic Muslims to heightened repression as part of its “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism.

Between January 2018 and February 2019, Human Rights Watch was able to reverse engineer the mobile app that officials use to connect to the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), the Xinjiang policing program that aggregates data about people and flags those deemed potentially threatening. By examining the design of the app, which at the time was publicly available, Human Rights Watch revealed specifically the kinds of behaviors and people this mass surveillance system targets.

Download Full Report: https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/report_pdf/china0519_web3.pdf

Our research shows, for the first time, that Xinjiang police are using illegally gathered information about people’s completely lawful behavior – and using it against them,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Chinese government is monitoring every aspect of people’s lives in Xinjiang, picking out those it mistrusts, and subjecting them to extra scrutiny.

Human Rights Watch published screenshots from the IJOP app, in the original Chinese and translated into English. The app’s source code also reveals that the police platform targets 36 types of people for data collection. Those include people who have stopped using smart phones, those who fail to “socialize with neighbors,” and those who “collected money or materials for mosques with enthusiasm.

The IJOP platform tracks everyone in Xinjiang. It monitors people’s movements by tracing their phones, vehicles, and ID cards. It keeps track of people’s use of electricity and gas stations. Human Rights Watch found that the system and some of the region’s checkpoints work together to form a series of invisible or virtual fences. People’s freedom of movement is restricted to varying degrees depending on the level of threat authorities perceive they pose, determined by factors programmed into the system.

A former Xinjiang resident told Human Rights Watch a week after he was released from arbitrary detention: “I was entering a mall, and an orange alarm went off.” The police came and took him to a police station. “I said to them, ‘I was in a detention center and you guys released me because I was innocent.’… The police told me, ‘Just don’t go to any public places.’… I said, ‘What do I do now? Just stay home?’ He said, ‘Yes, that’s better than this, right?

The authorities have programmed the IJOP so that it treats many ordinary and lawful activities as indicators of suspicious behavior. Some of the investigations involve checking people’s phones for any one of the 51 internet tools that are considered suspicious, including WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Human Rights Watch found. The IJOP system also monitors people’s relationships, identifying as suspicious traveling with anyone on a police watch list, for example, or anyone related to someone who has recently obtained a new phone number.

Based on these broad and dubious criteria, the system generates lists of people to be evaluated by officials for detention. Official documents state individuals “who ought to be taken, should be taken,” suggesting the goal is to maximize detentions for people found to be “untrustworthy.” Those people are then interrogated without basic protections. They have no right to legal counsel, and some are tortured or otherwise mistreated, for which they have no effective redress.

The IJOP system was developed by China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), a major state-owned military contractor in China. The IJOP app was developed by Hebei Far East Communication System Engineering Company (HBFEC), a company that, at the time of the app’s development, was fully owned by CETC.

Under the Strike Hard Campaign, Xinjiang authorities have also collected biometrics, including DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types of all residents in the region ages 12 to 65. The authorities require residents to give voice samples when they apply for passports. All of this data is being entered into centralized, searchable government databases. While Xinjiang’s systems are particularly intrusive, their basic designs are similar to those the police are planning and implementing throughout China.

The Chinese government should immediately shut down the IJOP platform and delete all the data that it has collected from individuals in Xinjiang, Human Rights Watch said. Concerned foreign governments should impose targeted sanctions, such as under the US Global Magnitsky Act, including visa bans and asset freezes, against the Xinjiang Party Secretary, Chen Quanguo, and other senior officials linked to abuses in the Strike Hard Campaign. They should also impose appropriate export control mechanisms to prevent the Chinese government from obtaining technologies used to violate basic rights. United Nations member countries should push for an international fact-finding mission to assess the situation in Xinjiang and report to the UN Human Rights Council.

Full 78 Page Research Presentation:

[pdf-embedder url=”https://roguemedia.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/china0519_web3.pdf”]


This article was originally published by Human Rights Watch on May 2nd 2019. It was republished, with permission, using a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 US License, in accordance with the Terms & Conditions of Human Rights Watch | Formatting edits, Teets, Videos and pdf added/embedded by Rogue Media Labs