ASL19 at RightsCon

by Ali Bangi

The team at ASL19 is excited to attend the 2016 RightsCon conference in San Francisco, California from March 30th to April 1st at the Mission Bay Conference Centre, where we will host a number of workshops and panels. In addition, our annual Iran Cyber Dialogue will be held on March 29th to kick off the RightsCon festivities. Below is a lineup of our activities during the week.

The first workshop hosted by ASL19 is entitled “Bridging the Gap Between Circumvention Tool Developers and Civil Society.” This session will be led by our colleagues Sina and Amin, and its goal is to leverage the experiences of tool developers and end-users to assess what has worked and what was failed in circumvention tool development and usage thus far. The workshop will build on these insights to generate innovative solutions for user outreach, and for combating challenges like tool localization and responses to “just-in-time” information controls. This workshop will be held in the Demo Room on March 30th from 12:00 to 1:15 p.m.

We’ll co-host our second workshop with Small Media, as a participatory and off-the-record event called “Rapid Response for Victims of Phishing & Malware Attacks.” This workshop will bring together representatives from major tech companies and rapid response service providers to discuss some of the most prominent phishing and malware attacks. The idea is to share lessons learned in order to prevent future attacks, and to review currently available rapid response resources. The anonymity of this discussion will facilitate a full exploration of the nuances of detecting and avoiding some of the more pernicious phishing attacks of late. This workshop will be held in the Demo Room on March 30th from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.

The first of our panel discussions is entitled “The Iran Deal and Future of Tech Sanctions.” While much of the sanctions-related attention has focused on financial and natural resource sanctions relief, this panel will explore the changing landscape of technology sanctions on Iran. In 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department revised its tech-related sanctions on Iran, explicitly permitting the export of communications-related hardware to Iran, as well as allowing the availability of both fee-based and free internet communications service to Iranians. And yet, the tech industry has been slow to move on sanctions relief. This panel will discuss the implications of these sanctions for Iranians’ exercise of their human rights online. This discussion will take place in The Engine room on March 30th from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m.

Our final panel discussion is called “Iran: Targeted Cyber Attacks.” Here our topic will be the recent increase in targeted phishing and malware attacks on Iranian activists and journalists. We’ll use as our starting point the Citizen Lab’s recent report on this trend, the results of which we’ll put in context and use to address security best practices. Specifically, we want to raise awareness about what individuals can do in the event of an attack, and especially to use past experiences to help participants develop a sensibility that will help them avoid falling prey to these attacks. Even though our focus will be on Iran, we’ll take a holistic approach and compare experiences with those of activists from other countries. This panel will take place in The Engine room on March 30th from 5:15 to 6:15 p.m.

Finally, the highlight of our RightsCon trip will surely be kicking off the conference on March 29th with this year’s edition of our annual Iran Cyber Dialogue (ICD). ICD will be a full day of sessions oriented towards collaborative solutions for practical implementation. We’ll do this in the context of discussions on circumvention tool resources, privacy and surveillance tools, and more. All of our sessions are conducted under the Chatham House Rule to ensure anonymity and free and open discussion.

See the full RightsCon schedule to get a sense of the wide diversity of important topics under consideration in San Francisco.