Inaugural ‘Tech Lab’ a Roaring Success at Oslo Freedom Forum 2015

Posted on June 07, 2015 by Rift Recon

Last week, the 2015 Oslo Freedom Forum united hundreds of international voices to address some of the world’s most critical human rights issues with the goals of challenging ideas and implementing change. The Rift Recon Team was on site running the conference’s first Tech Lab, which was designed to advise the attending activists, journalists, attorneys, artists, government officials, and other warm bodies on sensitive issues of security, privacy, and anonymity.


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“This year’s company presence was markedly different from last year’s,” said Rift Recon CEO Eric Michaud, “Last year we combined a presentation with subsequent focus groups, but we discovered an incredible demand for extensive individualized attention and for competent security practitioners to be present in an ‘on-call’ manner. We then pitched the concept of a “tech lab” to OFF and began planning for the next phase.”

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CEO Eric Michaud, Intelligence Instructor Brian O’Shea and Web Application Security Specialist Mike Fauzy worked together over a ten-hour period to address the concerns of a diverse array of inquiring minds, all with the common goal of attacking human rights violations. The team walked attendees through modified risk assessments to determine unique threat levels; probing for adversarial information, personal security capabilities, perceived danger to life, information on past security breaches, and more.

“We knew that presenting a trifecta of experts in their respective fields was critically important,” noted Brian O’Shea, “Unfortunately there tends to be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to working with at-risk populations, when in fact their needs vary extensively and require tailored advice. For example, if we’re speaking to secure communication, some people aren’t using the internet at all and are exclusively sharing information face-to-face, while some are operating in a country where the prevalent phone company is targeting them, ensuring none of their phone communications are secure. You can’t provide those two parties with the same canned advice - the stakes are high, and you’re apt to get people killed.”

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Rift Recon is in the process of following up with a handful of at-risk individuals they attended to at OFF and are busy laying the groundwork for an increased focus on human rights issues for the remainder of the year.

“We feel privileged to be welcomed into the trusted community that the Human Rights Foundation facilitates,” Michaud remarked, “We’re honored to be in a position to meet the needs of so many global pioneers.”

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For more information on this year’s Oslo Freedom Forum, visit their website for  press, upcoming events, and videos of this year’s speakers.

- Arianna Travaglini

Executive Assistant at Rift Recon

Posted in activism, anonymity, human rights, Human Rights Foundation, journalism, privacy, security

Rift Recon to Host Tech Lab at 7th Annual Oslo Freedom Forum

Posted on May 24, 2015 by Rift Recon

Tomorrow kicks off the seventh annual Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF) hosted by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), a non-profit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. At last year’s revolutionary conference Rift Recon traveled across the world to present a comprehensive security workshop to the crowds of rights defenders, scholars, dissidents, policymakers, Nobel Laureates, visionaries, heads of state, journalists, and other activists. Due to the undeniable popularity of the workshop and the demand for more individualized attention to specific incidences of threat and vulnerability, Rift Recon returned to OFF this year in a refurbished capacity.

On Monday May 25th from 11:00-19:30 the team, consisting of CEO Eric Michaud, Intelligence Instructor Brian O’Shea and Web Application Security Specialist Mike Fauzy, will be receiving conference attendees, speakers, staff and sponsors in the 7th Floor Conference Center during a day-long “Tech Lab”.

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“ My experience [at OFF] last year was incredibly enlightening,” said Michaud, who has advised on physical security, lockpicking, and hackerspaces for over a decade, “I was introduced to a number of people who were doing innovative global work, operating at a very high risk level while practicing minimal security measures. That’s terrifying! We want to provide the people fighting for our freedom with accessible, actionable ways to promote 360 degrees of security so that their voices can continue to be heard.”

When a layman hears the word “adversary”, they may think of a competitive coworker or a neighbor with a grudge. In human rights work, that adversary could be an oppressive dictatorship or a violent military regime, and activists must be proactive about educating themselves on preventative security practices and measures.

“Oftentimes with human rights work, the stakes are very high and the adversaries are very talented,” noted Fauzy, who has 15 years of combined experience in software development and Information Security, “You have to have a clear understanding of who your threat agent is and what their capabilities and resources are, as well as accurately assess your own resources and capacity to defend yourself.”

Tech Lab participants are encouraged to arrive with specific inquiries in mind. They will first be filtered through introductory questions designed to highlight their priorities and determine whether their threats are predominantly physical, cyber, or social in nature. They will then be directed to the appropriate specialist(s) and complete a more thorough risk and vulnerability assessment before receiving customized advice and resource referrals. If necessary, more detailed follow-up appointments will be scheduled on site.

“The number one reason secure measures are not applied is because people are insecure about their own ability to implement them,” remarked O’Shea, who has spent over 20 years in the field of investigations and intelligence, “Knowledge is empowering - if you let yourself be intimidated by the unknown, you’re exposing yourself as a target. People like soft targets, not hard targets. The more expensive you are to go after, the less adversaries will be tempted to attack.”

Tech Lab visitors who are less concerned about a particular threat but curious about generally improving their security skills will also have the opportunity to attend a more informal session with multiple Rift Recon specialists later on in the week.

“These days I have to remind folks that security goes much farther than just downloading an application or installing a program,” Michaud pointed out, “We’re changing people’s idea of how security works. We’re here without agenda - we just want to help people.” 


- Arianna Travaglini

Executive Assistant at Rift Recon

Posted in activism, human rights, Human Rights Foundation, journalism, Oslo Freedom Forum, OsloFF, privacy, security