Next Meetup: Sandy Stone on “Online identity and the fight for cyberfreedom”

Anonymous, ZModem, and Whiskey
Anonymous, ZModem, and Whiskey
Image Credit: Jacob Dexe - "Hacktivismen som demokrativerktyg"

“How in Hell Did We Get Here?: Online identity and the fight for cyberfreedom in the age of the Military-Industropolitical Complex”
by Allucquére Rosanne (Sandy) Stone

A fast-forward, semifictional history of online identity, with particular attention to the present collisions of massive political power and individual and collective agency, including how the speaker was transformed into a cat and survived the Great Hurricane of ’39 to become complicit in a Mexican Revolutionary Movement; with Graphical Illustrations, Extremely Bright Lights, and the Sound of Explosions. Maybe.

DATE: Thursday October 6th 7-9pm
NEW LOCATION: B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub and Restaurant [ @BDRileysAustin ], 204 E. 6th Street, Austin, Texas 78701; between Brazos and San Jacinto. We’ll be meeting in a dedicated space towards the back.
RSVP: Plancast
HASHTAG: #EFFatx

Allucquére Rosanne (Sandy) Stone [ website, wikipedia, cyborg anthropology entry ] is an academic theorist, media theorist, author, performance artist, and general troublemaker. She is Professor Emerita in the College of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin and Founding Director of the Advanced Communication Technologies Laboratory (ACTLab) in the department of Radio, Television and Film. Concurrently she is Wolfgang Kohler Professor of Media and Performance at the European Graduate School (EGS) and Founding Director of the radical new Experimental Media program ACTLab@EGS, senior artist at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and Humanities Research Institute Fellow at the University of California, Irvine. Stone has worked in and written about film, music, experimental neurology, writing, engineering, and computer programming. She is transgender and is considered a founder of the academic discipline of transgender studies, is the author of numerous books, novels, and essays, has been profiled in ArtForum, Wired, Mondo 2000, and many other publications, and Jon Lebkowsky has referred to her as “a force of nature.” She loves chocolate, cats and, apparently, getting herself into hair-raisingly scary situations from which escape is nearly impossible. Nevertheless she finds time to be a loving wife, boon companion, caring mother, and exemplary grandmother, while still running the hell all over the world to perform at conferences in too many disciplines to mention.

B.D. Riley’s on 6th Downtown

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Austin Police Department announces “Operation Wardrive”

Open Wireless Access Points - security threat?
Open Wireless Access Points - security threat?

Update (Sep 22 @ 1:07pm) – The Austin Police Department has decided to cancel Operation Wardrive and focus on the public education facet of this work. See Mark Boyden’s comment, an email response from APD Chief Art Acevedo. Thanks go to Scott Henson at Grits For Breakfast for his attention to this matter.

Yesterday (September 20th @ 2:46pm CST), KVUE News published an article relaying the Austin Police Department‘s intention to identify open residential wireless access points (WAPs) throughout the city.

Police will soon conduct an operation to find open wireless Internet connections in the city.

The APD Digital Analysis Response Team, or DART, will hold “Operation Wardrive” Thursday, Sept. 22. DART unit members will make contact with residents who have open wireless connections and teach them the importance of securing them.

This raises a number of immediate questions, perhaps the most simplistic and potentially revealing being simply: “why?” The answer to that question appears to be the same answer provided for lots of questions lately: safety.

From the article:

Leaving your wireless network open invites a number of problems:

  • You may exceed the number of connections permitted by your Internet service provider.
  • Users piggy-backing on your internet connection might use up your bandwidth and slow your connection.
  • Users piggy-backing on your internet connection might engage in illegal activity that will be traced to you.
  • Malicious users may be able to monitor your Internet activity and steal passwords and other sensitive information.
  • Malicious users may be able to access files on your computer, install spyware and other malicious programs, or take control of your computer.

The EFF Austin Board of Directors finds nothing wrong with this analysis of the potential risks Internet users undertake when intentionally or unintentionally leaving their wireless access points open for shared use. In fact, we could cite a few more. However, these are much the same risks that Internet users undertake when using ANY shared wireless access point, such as those provided by cafés, public parks, or the Austin Public Library.

Missing from the cited analysis is any recognition of potential benefits to be gained from publicly sharing one’s wireless access point. Lately, the virtues of contributing to any shared commons tends to be overshadowed by fears of bad actors (both real and imagined). For some facts, it’s worth reviewing cryptographer and computer security specialist Bruce Schneier‘s discussion on the virtues and risks of running an open wireless network.

More importantly, missing from the cited analysis is any recognition of the unintended consequences of APD collecting this information. The Austin Police Department is a public agency and is thus subject to the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA), Chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code, which guarantees the public’s access to information in the custody of government agencies. As a result of undertaking “Operation Wardrive” the records generated by that operation are subject to open records requests. That information is potentially valuable to perpetrators interested in undertaking the kind of malfeasance outlined in the KVUE article.

The EFF Austin Board is not interested in this data beyond knowing what is collected and why. We are more interested in the provenance of this Austin Police Department operation, and doing what we can to help APD increase public education about the virtues and risks of running an open wireless access point. To that end, we have decided to file an Open Records request today seeking information on this operation.

“Operation Wardrive” Open Records Request (Sep 21, 2011)

EFF Austin September Meeting: Michael Hathaway on “Smart Grid and the Internet”

Thanks to everyone who came out last month to hear Jon Lebkowsky [ @JonL ] guide us through and to the past and future Internet.

This month, we’ll be hearing former EFF Austin Board member Michael Hathaway present information from the world of modernizing electric utilities and the regulatory bodies that love them in a talk entitled “Smart Grid and the Internet.” Here’s the summary:

Michael Hathaway, CEO of Tiga Energy Services, Inc, www.tigaenergy.com, will share his unique and controversial perspective on the Smart Grid as it mirrors the evolution of the Internet.

He will outline the similarities between these two industries, explore lessons learned from the Internet and ponder the various scenarios for Smart Grid ranging from it transforming our lives to becoming a dot-com bubble.

This will not be a conventional industry overview of the Smart Grid, so bring an open mind and lots of questions!

Michael Hathaway is a technology executive whose career spans the the early days of digital audio, the broadband & multimedia revolution, to the rapid evolution of the energy industry occurring today. He currently heads up Tiga Energy Services, a network communications and cyber security firm that serves the energy industry.

Michael is always an engaging and passionately rational speaker and conversationalist. It’ll be a good talk and we’re all sure to learn.

We meet on First Wednesdays at The Flying Saucer [ @FlyingSaucerAus ] from 7-9pm. So that puts us on Wednesday September 7th. Parking is available on the surface lots, in the garages, and in the field adjacent to the SFC Farmer’s Market, which takes place every Wednesday in the commons field. We’re in the reserved room in the back right corner as you walk into the Saucer. We’re raising bandwidth issues with Flying Saucer, so for now bring your wireless access device of choice if you got em; any less pressure on the network infrastructure helps. And we have our own VGA cable this time to avoid that “everything is yellow” jaundiced-effect. Power strips will be available on side tables.

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When: 7PM Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
Where: Flying Saucer, 815 W 47th St at the Triangle.
Hashtag: #EFFatx

You can also sign up for the event on the Facebook. Like us if you do.