Coming in March: CSD2014 Conference ‘Organised Crime in Conflict Zones’

CSD2014 WordCloud 302x300 Coming in March: CSD2014 Conference ‘Organised Crime in Conflict Zones’The CSD2014 Conference ‘Organised Crime in Conflict Zones’ will take place on the 6th of March, 2014. Organised by postgraduate students from the Conflict, Security and Development (CSD) programme at King’s College London (KCL) and supported by the War Studies Department, the conference will be held at the Great Hall of the Strand Campus.

The one-day event will focus on transnational organised crime, a multi-billion pound global business and an area of growing international concern. The programme will address the conflict-crime nexus and focus on three key areas of organised crime. These are drug trafficking, terrorist criminality and human trafficking. The conference objective is to address gaps in policy and scholarship, and to encourage research into this subject of growing relevance.

The event will benefit from contributions of leading policymakers, practitioners and academics in the field. Confirmed speakers include:

  • Dr. Mark Shaw, Director of Communities, Crime and Conflicts at STATT Consulting as well as Director of The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime. Dr. Shaw previously held many postings at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
  • Professor Mats Berdal, Professor of Security and Development at the War Studies Department of King’s College London.
  • Charlie Edwards, Senior Research Fellow and Director of National Security and Resilience Studies at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
  • Parosha Chandran, award winning human rights barrister at 1 Pump Court Chambers in London and co-founder of the Trafficking Law and Policy Forum. She was selected as one of the most influential lawyers in the UK by ‘The Time’s Law Panel’.
  • Nigel Inkster, Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk at the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) and Chairman of the World Economic Forum’s Committee on Terrorism.

The total of 14 speakers will address the root causes of organised crime, connections to conflict, strategic responses and forward-looking policy implications.

For more information on the conference and our speakers, please visit our website at:

Preferential rates are available for students, to purchase tickets please go to

For any queries please contact us at:

For more please visit the CSD2014 Blog, Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.

Tor and the Illusion of Anonymity

So the story as it stands now seems to be that a certain Eric Eoin Marques is being accused of being the largest distributor of child pornography on the planet. Unfortunately (and allegedly), Mr. Marques leveraged Tor anonymity services to provide the mechanism for the illegal distribution. Also unfortunately, a number of other less offensive services such as TorMail were hosted on the same Freedom Hosting servers owned by Marques. The big story here is that in taking this guy down the feds (allegedly) not only grabbed whatever he was hosting but also exploited a vulnerability in the Tor browser bundle that allowed them to identify the true IP addresses an unknown number of Tor users.

Busting (alleged) creeps is always a good thing so why are security and privacy advocates freaked out? Well, there are legitimate uses for Tor ranging from simple privacy preferences to attempting to evade government surveillance in oppressive regimes. Any compromise of its security, however noble the cause, obviously doesn’t sit will with those users. What one government (allegedly) does to track down creeps could just as easily be done by another to track down, say, pro-democracy activists. So this is a problem. In some cases lives of non-creepy people could be at stake.

If there is an upside to this it’s that it should serve as a huge wakeup call to the legitimate users who rely on simplistic technical solutions for privacy. Tools are not perfect and in the case of widely used tools like Tor they are also incredibly high-profile targets. Intelligence and law enforcement agencies are in search of secrets and they will go wherever those are found. They will crack open those layers of secrecy whatever the cost. Privacy advocates and constitutional law scholars can debate the legitimacy of government activity in this space until the end of time but it will not change that reality. If you think you can subscribe to a VPN, fire up Tor, and take on a world power you are in for a very rude awakening.

Also, let’s not forget that there are countless other governments eyeing that prized data. And many of them are unencumbered by even the prospect of a public debate on the topic. Edward Snowden’s revelations have the global media and privacy advocates focused on the actions of the U.S. intelligence community. But while it may be the most capable and largest collector of this type of intelligence it is not alone. Not by a long shot. Using tools like Tor, and even simple email encryption, will place you squarely in the middle of a targeted user group with potentially multiple governments looking your way.

Online anonymity is still possible but it is not something within the grasp of the casual user and it is not available via a simple software solution. You have to work for it, you have to have technical expertise, you have to sacrifice time and online social interaction. You also have to manage your identity and your security perfectly – every single time. So the question is how do good people maintain their privacy on the internet? If your definition if privacy is absolute, meaning escaping all government collection, then forget it. The internet is not for you. You may keep your information out of the hands of hackers and corporations but you are unlikely to completely evade large governments. Seriously, just forget it.

However, if you are willing to work with a flexible definition of privacy (that sound you just heard was the exploding heads of a thousand privacy advocates) there are still valuable tools and practices that can be applied. My personal expectation of privacy does not include escaping government technical surveillance – direct or indirect through large data grabs. Could I achieve that with hard work and a ton of very uncomfortable behavioral changes? Sure, but it is not a price I’m willing to pay. Absolute privacy is not my goal. Instead a more reasonable and entirely personal definition is needed.

Perhaps the most that any average user could hope to achieve is to maintain the integrity of their accounts and any data that they’ve stored online. This is increasingly challenging but achievable though good password/account management and a basic understanding of common technical exploits. On top of some good old fashioned common sense it is possible to layer security tools that help identify vulnerabilities and suspicious activities. However,the most significant security-boosting measures are behavioral. By this I mean not pouring tons of sensitive private data into social media or other accounts with the expectation that it will remain private. What are you willing to feed the system in exchange for access and social interaction?

The bottom line is that we each need to think carefully about what we do online and adjust our personal security model accordingly. A lot of privacy advocates cringe at this and will say I’m “blaming the user” but you can not depend on laws or corporate policy or any thing or person outside of yourself to safeguard your privacy. The modern internet is built on a model that largely trades on user surveillance. It does so with those user’s full cooperation (well, sometimes) in exchange for free services or the promise of social interaction. Privacy starts with this understanding, an inventory of what you’ve already given away (in places like those terms of service agreements that none of us read), and the willingness to accept personal responsibility for what you put into the system.

14 Hashtags You Can Use to Track the Bradley Manning Verdict (And Why You Should Use Only One)

The announcement should come at 1pm EST on Tuesday.

I am finding myself tuning out large portions of Twitter during these types of events. It’s a polarized and increasingly ugly place. The conflict doesn’t bother me very much but the related decrease in the overall quality of the content flowing by does. However, some people love staring into the firehose. If you’re one of those types these hashtags are your gateways to what is certain to be a flood of drama once the verdict is announced.

#Manning – If you only follow one hashtag this is the way to go. You’ll find commentary from both sides of the issue here and a lot more participation from journalists covering the trial.

#Wikileaks – Used widely by supporters and opponents alike.

#ManningTrial – Active but not as widely used.

#OpManning and #DefendBrad – Action-oriented support from Anonymous.

#FreeBrad, #FreeBradley and #FreeManning – Self-explanatory. Enthusiastically spammed by more than a few Wikileaks/Assange/Snowden (and of course Manning) groupies.

#IStandWithBradleyManning – People who support Manning but don’t have much else to say mainly because their hashtag doesn’t leave them any room to do so.

#ActForBrad and #ActForBradley – Supporters organizing protests and other events.

#DropTheCharge – Uh, yeah. That’s not going to happen.

#SaveManning and #SaveBrad – Because his supporters apparently can’t agree on a unified hashtag or two.