Syrian Scam

I’ve laughed

I was reading through my mail^Wspam today and, I found one that did two things in my mind. First I wad disgusted because, you know, people will exploit everything.

But then, after reeading it again and again, I found the fact of me receiving this particular scam, was quite ironic. And, in the end, it’s more than plausible that what’s happening in this mail is true, syrian officials trying to hide their money.

So, here is the full mail, with headers.

Return-Path: rasheeedkazeem@syriacomms.net X-Original-To: okhin@okhin.fr Delivered-To: okhin@okhin.fr Received: by ssmtp.okhin.fr (Postfix, from userid 1003) id 5FAD12E6171; Wed, 24 Oct 2012 13:40:14 +0200 (CEST) Received: from server88-208-250-155.live-servers.net (server88-208-250-155.live-servers.net [88.208.250.155]) by ssmtp.okhin.fr (Postfix) with ESMTP id 2E37F2E616F for okhin@okhin.fr; Wed, 24 Oct 2012 13:40:14 +0200 (CEST) Version MIME: 1.0 From: "Rasheed Kazeem" rasheeedkazeem@syriacomms.net Reply to: rasheedkazeem@syriacomms.net To: okhin@okhin.fr Subject: Proposal Mime type: text/plain Encoding: quoted-printable X-Mailer: Smart_Send_2_0_132 Date: Wed, 24 Oct 2012 12:40:04 +0100 X-Bogosity: Unsure, tests=bogofilter, spamicity=0.474480, version=1.2.2

Good day,

I am Rasheed Kazeem I represent the interest of my brother in-law who is a minister in the Syrian Government. As you probably know, there is a lot of crisis going on currently in Syria and my brother in-law is having problems with the ruling party and they are currently investigating his ministry. While he is sure that he has not done anything wrong, there is also every reason for him to secure to think ahead his family’s future in case the unexpected happens. He has asked me to help him find a reputable foreigner who can help him invest a substantial amount of money. I am contacting you with the hope that you can assist with investments in the market of your country. We will provide the funds. If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, please kindly contact me back via email and I will give you more details. Hopefully, we can do some good business together.

Regards,

Stupid journalists are killing people

Stop killing people, stop using Skype!

A journalists friend of mine pointed me to a news flash from AFP – REF: 29578 DVBP 729 GLN20 (4) AFP (295) , if it means something to you – in which they killed someone. Or, if it’s not the case, he will be killed soon.

Why? First, they used his full name in the text, and the city where he lives. This is, in essence, like putting a target on his forehead and waiting for snipers, tanks and/or mortars to kill him.

But worse, they used the infamous malware named Skype to contact him. Besides the huge privacy issue related to using something that has been ‘accidentaly’ deployed in the last Windows Update, it is of public knowledge that Skype is used as a trojan to identify and hunt activists in Syria. The EFF posted about it, kaspersky, posted about it, even the original writer of the tool used inside Skype to deploy the Remote Access Tool has wrote about it along iwth a removal tool.

So, journalists now knows, for month, that it is dangerous to use Skype. It is also dangerous to use closed and proprietary software. A lot of people are telling this for months now and even make propositions to use alternative, free and decentralized systems, because it is the only way to enforce some bits of privacy.

You are a fucking idiot AFP

So, enough with the polite arguments. Each and every time someone uses Skype, Twitter, Facebook, MSN, Gmail or any other widespread and centralized system (it includes relying only on one XMPP servers, or status.net one) they’re putting their sources in danger.

So, fuckers, YOU HAVE TO STOP THIS. Get your fingers out of you ass. Just think and do your jobs. You’re destroying everything that people are trying to do by being a lazy asshole full of selfishness and thinking without brains.

Stop that or I’ll go after your family and smash them with Apple hardware (since it appears they can be used only to slap someone).

You knew that Skype is dangerous. But you did that call. And you put the name. You’ve killed the person who trusted you, you’re not better than the ones that are killing people in the street.

Addendum

It appears that the interview is exploited among various flash news, you can find one here (without going through a paywall)

Also, people might want to know what are the risks. Since it appears some are lazy enough tonot use seeks I’ve done a quick search and found all of those:

It took me 20 seconds to find those. Also, if you’re looking for ways to communicate, there is two links I recommend:

Replies

Ok, so @afpfr did reply me. Nice of them. Here are their tweets (they also replied to Telecomix and Ju).

Basically they wanted me to contact them first, and then they said that their contact had no issue with the publication of its identity, adding that this identity is a pseudonym.

So, I do not think getting private on this issue will have them answering anything and changing their habits. Also, if it’s a pseudonyms, it is to make the sources unidentifiable. So, why writing down the pseudonym? And if their contact always use this pseudonym, the mukhabarats can get after him, arresting people to torture them and to make a link between his ID and his pseudo.

Also, I have no personal issue with the AFP. I have one with each and every person that will put someone in danger, because they are too lazy to think and use free software.

Moar Replies

Yeah, I know. But AFP did a long reply and I think it’s interesting. You’ll find the text in FR here and I think it is interesting.

First they did a long reply, which means, we got their attentions. And it also means they’re concerned about it. So, I’ll do a point to point reply, translating the text on the go. Because I do think that things can change.

Lots of internaut were flaming against the AFP, on the second of July, accusing them to put in danger the life of a Syrian opposition member.

Telling that the rage was overrated does not change the fact that you did put his life in danger.

In a flash news from Beyrouth, titled « Homs is still under fire, some injured people are amputated (militants) » and published Monday at 08:50 AM GMT, a militant from the bombed Syrian town gives us his testimony :

"A lot of district in Homs are still besieged and it’s very hard for us to bring food and drugs in" Khaled al-Tellawy told AFP, a militant from Homs contacted by Skype.

Dozen of people, on Twitter and in blog posts, were outraged, sometimes in harsh and insulting terms, because of the fact that the AFP were namely quoting this Syrian opposition member. They also criticized the AFP of using Skype, a communication system that some judge unsafe regarding the terms of use. The syrian government is suspected of having create some malware that grants him the possibility of easily locating militants when they use Skype.

Ok, I do accept that I’ve missed the pseudonym part (but then, having a pseudo or ‘one guy’ is the same). But, when you’re saying that some people thinks that Skype is unsure, you’re missing the point.

Skype is a trojan. It’s a free (as in free beer) tool that grants user to communicate using non-standards VoIP protocols. It grants a user to share almost anything via Skype. From text message, to sharing desktop, going by voice and video. It is now a subsidiary of Microsoft. And we all know that Microsoft works with each and every government, for instance in Tunisia.
And the FBI Use Skype as a surveillance tool

Besides, there are documented cases of Skype being used as a trojan in Syria to target activists there, the [EFF][] spotted some of them:

Sammy Ketz, directeur du bureau de l’AFP à Beyrouth où a été rédigée la dépêche, réfute toute accusation d’imprudence.

Sammy Kets, head of the AFP office in Beyrouth where the news was redacted, denies all accusation of carelessness.

« We explicitly asked him the autorization to quote him. He granted us this right, given that Khaled al-Tellawi is, of course, a pseudonym. Tellawi being a Syria area » explained Sammy Kets.

« None of our interlocutors gives us his real name and they choose their pseudonyms by themselves » he add. « It is the militants who are trying to contact us by all means possible and they invites us to join them on Skype. It is, most of the time, their only medium of communication with the outside. It is a wrong trial for an agency who always tried to protect their sources, especially in a conflict as dangerous as in Syria. »

So, why don’t you publish the pseudo of all your sources on each press release? I mean, if it’s so important for a good information, why all the journalists aren’t publishing the name of their sources, even if it’s a pseudonym? I mean, it appear to be a common practice, since AFP is a traditional with good repuation press agency, right? I might missing something, right?

We should asks mediapart and Le Canard Enchaîné to disclose each sources they have also. After all, this is how good journalism is done if I follow your thoughts. AFP, you might be kidding, or on crack to think that.

Also, if someone goes in the middle of a street while a truck is going to smash him. You warn him, you try to push it out of the way, you just don’t let him right in the middle of the road. So, the argument they reach you via Skype is fallacious. You should use this contact to establish a secured communication with them.

« We’re using Skype daily to communicate with Syrian rebels, as we’ve always done before in Libya and to this days and no one else have ever blamed us for that » add Jean-Louis Doublet, AFP chief editor for the Middle East

We’ve already blamed anyone for using Skype, through the @telecomix status.net chan, this blog or through a lot more media (even Richard Stallman warns anyone against Skype at the Jhack second iteration). So, you knew it and you were already blamed for that. But know, you are listening, so you’ll learn (I hope).

And the fact you were doing mistakes before, does not mean they weren’t mistakes.

« Opponents are necessarily concious of the dangers of using Skype. But it’s that or be totally cut of the outside world. In this country, everyone is risking their life » he pursue. « All the media are using Skype to speak to Syrian opposition. Accusing AFP to do it is specious. If someone wanted to forbid us to spread the opposition words they would not do anything else. »

No, opponents are not necessarily aware of the dangers of Skype. But you are. It is your duty, as journalists, to establish secured channel of communication with your informants on the ground. You cannot assume that people are doing what they should, or we won’t have conflict everywhere.

The fact that everyone is doing a mistake, does not make the mistakes the right things to do.

And, well, I do not want to shut any contact with Syria. I just want people to think about the way they’re communicating. Telecomix and the WorldNeighbourgHood have permanent contact with activists on the field, using more secure chan.

With Telecomix, we are trying to make people aware of more secure way of communication. Since 15 months we’re also building communication channels that anyone can use. You do not even have to asks us the permission first.

But yes, it means, you have to think first and act then.


Edited to add the various links at the end (2012/07/02 16:37 Paris time) Edited to add the replies. (2012/07/02 17:39 Paris time) Edited to add the more detailled reply of AFP (2012/07/02 20:22 Paris time)

Thank You

There’s something on my mind I can’t sort without putting it in words. I feel extremely uncomfortable about it and it almost makes me sick. Yeah, it happens sometimes and that means I’m not a complete sociopath.

This is a problem about journalists, reporters, and each and every people that do everything they can to report news. I have no problems with any of them, and most of them are doing an incredible job.

They’re risking their life on a daily basis in Syria, and today that’s two of them being killed after broadcasting live from Homs and they probably were good at doing their jobs, yesterday one the citizen journalist was killed too, and that’s just the one reporting the news from the field.

My problem is about the ‘what can we do’. With the telecomix cluster and the opsyria volunteers, we are, most of us, sitting in our offices, speaking to media or other stuff like that. We always try to have fun, because else we won’t be able to manage all this crap, but we never were on the field.

We have some contacts there, and some of them have disappeared for a while. That’s how we can feed our different news publishing sites, but we do not put our lives in danger (yeah, we learned that life is a video-game with only one credit).

Sometimes journalists come on our chans asking us for advices. They’re asking if they can go in Syria. And we don’t know how to answer.

Either we spare their life, the one of the fixer they’ll have over there, and the ones of the people they’ll meet but then we play the game of Assad: encouraging black-out of information on the field, or we just tells them stay safe, use strong encryption, do not have notes or rush that can identify people.

But all those advices are good as long as you’re not in a city blindly shelled night and day for weeks. And we see the people dying there, trying to grab testimony and doing their jobs. We’re just archivists, we try to keep all the data we can found in perspective, but without those amazing people on the ground (whether they’re citizen journalists, or professional and international field reporters) we wouldn’t be able to do this.

Last week, I was at a lecture to discuss about the interaction between hackers and NGO, and someone asked me:

What are your plans for Syria now?

I don’t fucking know. I have no idea. We maintain our systems of communication, but when you’re under heavy shelling without electricity or food or water for days, it’s of no use. I have no fucking clue of what we can do. We are not meant to go on the field.

I see no hope of a peaceful resolution, and now that Assad’s forces have been ordered to assassinate journalists I do not even see how it is possible.

I do not know what to say. Journalists must get there, it’s mandatory to know what’s happening there, but they will get assassinated.

I will stand for freedom in Syria. We, as humans, need to know what’s happening there, not for any macabre voyeur thing, but for being able to be a witness, to be of any help for them.

So, to all the people that puts their life at stake to brings informations out of Syria, I want to say Thank You. You’re not alone, you won’t be forgotten. Continue your amazing job. Report. Try to stay reasonably safe, but it has no meaning in a battlefield. The violence must not kill the information. If you need any help to hide your communication or to establish more or less safe one, get in touch with us.

And to all the redactors out there or to all the editors of content that sometimes remove stuff like that from the intertubes, we’re watching you. You know what’s happening there. You must speak about it.

Thank You. Really.

Addendum: The Express