Commuting is taking a toll on ya? Podcasts are the solution

Here is the ultimate podcast list for infosec and data protection. Enjoy!
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The other day, I was participating in an after-work panel centring on the professional opportunities cybersecurity at large presents. The discussion primarily focused on drawing in women to the field as a way to diversify and enrich the talent pool. Yet, few of us insisted on focusing on diversity, be it gender, social, etc.

Amongst the main questions was: how do I get into the field? Trying to provide sound advice on that made me realise we have a handful of resources to building up new and/or extra skills within the realm. However, starting off if you are, say, a developer or a legal person may turn bumpy and challenging.

Get to know the industry which interests you: infosec

Often, we hear that technical knowledge is not required for a career in infosec when one has other competencies

IMHO, such a standpoint is debatable. Indeed, you do not — and cannot — learn and know and meaningfully mobilise any technical bit out there. And nobody will ever ask of you to be the a complete technical authoritative encyclopaedia. Yet, I hold that should you ignore the very makeup and fundamentals of the topic, you will be imprecise at best when providing consultancy services. This is true regardless of your non-technical skills.

Podcasts to the rescue

Of course, learning new, complicated, technical stuff demands time, effort, method and rigour. But it does not need to be boring or tedious.

That is why I decided to put up a list of resources of my choosing. The criteria are rather basic: content needs to be diverse, engaging, accessible. I curated the below list of podcasts, in English and French. They are fun enough to get you to learn things, be it help you out in a self-teaching strive, be it make your commute to work more enjoyable.

And naturally, should you have suggestions, let me know: contact details are over here (scroll). Thanks, and enjoy!

Podcasts in English

Podcasts in French

#OrangeIsTheNewBlacklist: In France, Google and Wikipedia briefly censored for “apologia of terrorism”

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You dislike Mondays? You’d have loved this one: Google and Wikipedia were censored for an hour in France, for “apologia of terrorism”.

Yesterday 17 October 2016, an ordinary Monday morning, I was searching for a document online. Using different search engines — DuckDuckGo, Qwant, Google — helps me find out more details; incidentally and in contrast with Google, alternative engines also respect my privacy since they neither log nor keep track of my search requests.

Weirdly enough, Google was timing out. I tried out a few more times, to no success. My Internet connection was fine, though, and Qwant was also responding. Even more bizarre, my Gmail account was functional. On Twitter, some people were also flagging a “Google down” situation and started asking me which my ISP is. My Internet service provider (ISP) is Orange. It turned out that the issue seemed to affect only subscribers at Orange and its low-cost subsidiary, Sosh.

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What exactly happened in North Sinai today?

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[UPDATED: please scroll] Violence erupted in North Sinai early on 1 July 2015. The attack is widely attributed to the local ISIS faction. The below account is of the developing situation with live fact-checking based on open-source intelligence (OSINT).

With the coming celebration of the military takeover of power in Egypt, terrorist attacks have intensified. Or this is at least what some claim. I am not exactly sure how much this is true. Others seem to doubt it as well. Another reason why I doubt the July 3 anniversary is THE reason is because of recent encouragements by ISIS to intensify attacks during the holy month of Ramadan. ISIS was coming anyway, Morsi or not Morsi, Sisi or not Sisi; and its horrors are not restricted to Egypt.

Anyhow, the question in this situation is hardly one’s capability to speculate about what the reason is behind these fierce attacks by ISIS-affiliated terrorists. Instead, I figured there is—perhaps a bit more than usual—too much of rumours and beefed-up images and numbers. And as the great people from reported.ly are a bit busy with the Greek euro crisis, I decided to sum up a few findings from this morning.

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Youth, “the Internet” and speech

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Last week, just a few days after I returned from Cairo, I stumbled upon an event organised by UNESCO and whose combination of supporting countries amused me. The two-day conference, “Youth and the internet: Fighting radicalisation and extremism”, was supported by Bulgaria and Egypt. Everyone who knows me understands the amusement.

Beyond this fun fact of limited importance, the topic and its relationship to my own work and interests were intriguing enough to give the event a day. I know quite a few people around me are interested in this write-up. So, I took the time to actually expand it, in a way that it can relate to a broader work I am into exploring excitable speech through post-colonial lenses in the Balkans and MENA. Also, enriching the write-up helps me contribute to a project to train citizens to mitigate hate speech online in South Sudan. More on the distinction between ‘hate speech’ and ‘excitable speech’ later (a research paper coming up on that).

I had my own expectations about the line-up of speakers and the probable directions the discussions would head to. And I was entirely correct.

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Plug & Play News: Sourcing, Verifying and Publishing Info in Real-Time Crisis

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Earlier in May, I attended re:publica, aka Berlin’s annual gathering of innovators from the worldover. This year’s topic was “Finding Europe”. One of the two talks I gave focused on sourcing, verifying and disseminating information in a rapidly evolving situation, e.g. a real-time crisis.

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Wonderings and wanderings: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

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Bishkek is the Eastern Europe of 30 years ago, except with mobile phones and internet access. It is more or less a museum relic of the former Soviet Union Bloc.

This quote translates my exact feelings upon arrival in Bishkek, the capital city of Kyrgyzstan. Although I remember nothing from the Soviet Union bloc 30 years ago, I do remember how my own homecountry looked like 15 years ago. And even if Bulgaria was not formally a part of the Soviet Union, it was close enough to the Big Brother to look strikingly alike. I have done my best to collect my impressions in a dedicated photoset: a concrete post-Soviet experience, in both senses of the term ‘concrete’.

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Egypt: News websites and alternative voices

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In a country deeply polarised after three years of tumultuous change, Egyptian news websites have become very important media for free expression. This study looks at some of the pressures they are experiencing. News websites are among the most popular websites in Egypt. They represent an alternative to ‘traditional’ broadcast and print media, with their long histories of state control and supervision.

Online news is a partially regulated space – freer than the traditional media but not as free from regulation as social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. But there are indications that the space for free expression on news websites may shrink in the near future, under pressure from a combination of new legislation and, reportedly, new surveillance tactics that may set precedents for the whole of the Middle East and North Africa.

Read the research report I co-authored with Mohamed ElDahshan, a joint project with ARTICLE 19:

English

Arabic: مصر: مواقع اخبارية وأصوات بديلة على الانترنت

French anti-terrorism draft law: what it says, in brief

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Back in July 2014, La Quadrature du Net, Paris-based digital rights advocacy NGO, was summing up the few developments around the proposed anti-terrorism draft law:

This new bill institutes a permanent state of emergency on the Internet that allows the judicial system to be largely bypassed and favours instead recourse to police and administrative systems that, besides failing to guarantee fair hearing, are largely disproportionate, ill-equipped and thus ineffective in reaching the stated goal of fighting terrorism.

What is my post about?

As the bill was to be discussed in the Parliament, la Quadrature du Net has launched a dedicated mini-website to help inform and educate the public about everything one needs to know regarding the measures in the draft.

This post is not aimed at analysing the bill and its possible impact on civil liberties and, more broadly, digital rights in France. The parliamentary debate has kicked off on Sept 15 and will resume on Sept 16.

It is urgent to have more attention drawn to this dangerous text; yet, I realised that French impaired completely ignored the ongoing fight. The post thus contains a tentative translation in English of the most important articles from the bill. Amendments have been proposed as well, but I will hopefully get to them later. If you wanna help to translate, leave a comment.

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Fraud fighters wanted in the Middle East

Scientific misconduct and research fraud are tolerated in the Middle East and North Africa region. What is the impact? How do we move forward?
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I recently interacted with a scholar from the American University of Sharjah (UAE). The person asked me to edit a draft research paper of his which needed “rephrasing and unifying.” Such a request is common with non-native English speakers before submission in a peer-reviewed journal.

Having agreed on fee and timeline, I edited and returned the paper. The scholar’s response was astounding: “when I checked your rephrased document on a plagiarism detection site, it indicated that 87% is copied…the aim is to reach 10% at most”. His expectation, as it turns out, was for me to rewrite the paper, concealing plagiarised chunks of text. Though I had noticed entire paragraphs in faultless English, I had assumed co-authorship, not academic theft. I responded that I was not to devote my time to “forging research papers.” As expected, payment never came through.

This all happened while news made the headlines of a miracle cure developed by the Egyptian army for HIV and hepatitis C. That ‘cure’ today remains in the anthology as ‘KoftaGate’. I felt the need to address this culture of unethical scientific behaviour.

Forgery, plagiarism and other plagues

Plagiarism is one of the most widespread manifestations of scientific misconduct: it happens everywhere. When misconduct occurs, the publication is generally retracted. An independent watchdog launched in August 2010, Retraction Watch, has become the go-to institution for remarkable work in this field.

In 2012, a close examination of more than 2,000 retracted biomedical and life-science research articles showed that two-thirds were removed because of proven or suspected misconduct. Plagiarism accounted for nearly 10 per cent of retractions. Fraud or suspected fraud, e.g. photoshopping images and “arranging data” to support one’s claims are other types of forgery. Last but not least, there are also scientists so fond of their work that they practice duplicate publishing.

Follow-up studies make it clear that misconduct can happen at any stage of a career, from the trainee to the senior researcher. Some blame the “publish or perish” rules that govern research. Others explain it by limited resources. If a lab does not have enough money to sustain its projects, then it might resort to crafting what is ‘necessary’ to publish the study and hope for better funding. Whatever the reason, however, lies and copy-paste habits are unethical and harm science as they influence research trends, waste public funds and can have a direct impact on people’s lives.

Misconduct also spans across all scientific domains. Some experts even believe that as much as 90 per cent “of all [archaeological] artefacts and coins sold on internet auctions as genuine are nothing but fakes.” Among antiquities forgery cases fall the largely overlooked traffic of real but stolen artefacts, a long-lived practice found to occur in many countries across the Middle East, including embattled Syria.

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Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression (Conditions apply)

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[First published on openDemocracy.]

12 March marked the World Day against online censorship. Reporters Without Borders remained faithful to their habits and announced this year’s ‘Enemies of the Internet’. Repressive governments in the Middle East also remained faithful to their habits; they continued to crack down on free speech, both online and offline.

The Algerian government, for instance, marked this day in a special way: by taking Jordanian Noorsat satellite TV channel Al-Atlas completely off-air. Addressing each and every event of suppressed free speech is impossible. I believe, however, that the few examples below will suffice to highlight the unconditional disrespect for freedom of expression citizens encounter every day across the MENA region.

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Legal Challenges to Opening up Research Data in France

There are a lot of legal challenges to opening research data
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We at RS Strategy are strong supporters of open knowledge. Our founder is a trained scientist, thus opening up science and research are a soft spot for us.

We are thus happy to join a dedicated workgroup at the French National Institute for Agriculture Research (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, INRA) aiming to map the current legal framework of research data production and management. To our knowledge, this workgroup is the first of its kind at the institutional level in France. The group’s members wish to explore the legal challenges ahead of opening the Institute’s data. An expected outcome is a handbook for researchers to smoothen their journey towards Open Science Data.

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Bulgaria’s ‘chilly welcome’ to Syrian refugees

Bulgaria's chilly welcome to Syrian refugees
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[First published on openDemocracy.]

Over two million people have fled the havoc in Syria and sought refuge in bordering countries; at least one million of them are children, estimated the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) back in August 2013. Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq are the top five countries where most have resettled. Over the past several months, however, the exodus has shifted to Europe. For the majority of Syrians searching for a safe EU haven, the journey starts in Turkey where refugee smuggling blossoms. Today, Bulgaria counts over 10,000 refugees, an atypical surge this European border country was unprepared for.

Despite financial help from the EU, the Bulgarian government has consistently preferred to engage in exacerbating the situation. Intensifying influx of refugees in the country prompted the opening of more camps to host the newcomers. These hellholes are in incredibly squalid conditions, but this is where the Bulgarian government welcomes asylum seekers. In October 2013, Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev played the tough guy and sacked the head of Bulgaria’s Refugee Agency for “failing to handle the influx.” Yet, reception centres continue to be overcrowded, Syrians undergo an administrative hassle for weeks; food, clothing and medicine are largely funded by donations from ordinary citizens.

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Love Your Data—And Let Others Love It, Too

Love your research data and let others love it, too
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[Lire en français]

The Projects initiative is a Digital Science endeavour. Projects is a desktop app that allows you to comprehensively organise and manage data you produce as research projects progress. The rationale behind Projects is that scientific data needs to be properly managed and preserved if we want it to be perennial. There’s indeed a worrisome trend showcasing that every year, the amount of research data being generated increases by 30%, and yet a massive 80% of scientific data is lost within two decades.

Projects and open science data-sharing platform figshare published an impressive and pretty telling infographic on science data preservation and chronic mismanagement [scroll down to see it]. What struck me looking at these numbers is neither the high-throughput data production nor the overall funds it requires – 1,5 trillion USD spent on R&D! – but the little to no information on public policies aimed at solving the problem.

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