Thursday, June 25, 2009

Denial of Service Attacks for Dummies

Last night, I was so outraged by a report on the NY Times blog about the Iranian government posting photos of demonstrators and asking visitors to identify them. A quick perusal of the page with Google Persian Translator I'm usually a fanatical fan of free speech, but the idea of a government using the web to pick on nonviolent demonstrators was too much for me. We may not be able to do anything about the government sicing basiji on the protesters, but we can certainly do something when they try to get them with the web. The outrage prompted me to google some means of shutting the site down. (Caveat: Cyberwar guide reminds us to only attack sites recommended by trusted sources. I felt this qualified because it was mentioned in the Times, and because I researched the page myself.)

The simplest kind of site attack is a Denial of Service attack. This works by sending so many requests to a site's server that it shuts down. Every time you connect to a site, you send a request, so the best way to send a lot of requests to a site is to reload it over and over. If you can open a browser and hit reload, you can help.

An even better way, however, is to have your computer automatically reload the page for you. You can leave this it running for hours on end. In the case of the protest-busting site above, I opened 20 browser tabs, set them to reload every 5 seconds, and left them on overnight. When I woke up in the morning, the site was down.

Here's how to do it:
1. Open firefox. If you don't have firefox, you can download it here.
2. Download the "Reload Every" tool from the Mozilla site. Install it and restart Firefox.
3. Go to the site you want to attack.
4. Right click on the site's homepage. Mouse over "reload every" and select "5 seconds"
4.5. (Or, if you want to be really devious) Right click on the site's homepage, mouse over "reload every" and select "custom". It will ask you to specify an amount of time for it to keep reloading. Set it to 1 second.
6. Leave it running for as long as you like. If you're feeling especially subversive, open multiple browser tabs and repeat the above instructions.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Worldwide Iranian Protests

View Locations of Iran Elections Protests in a larger map

(Reposted so that it stays on top.)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Letters to Ahmadinejad

Diversion doesn't work forever.

HBO is airing a Swedish documentary called "Letters to the President", about the phenomena of people writing letters to Ahmadinejad asking him to solve their problems. It's an interesting move - people write in and ask for money, help, medicine, water to irrigate their crops - and he has a staff that answers them. About 90% of the letters are answered, sometimes with face to face meetings with goverment officials, and occasionally with meetings with Ahmadinejad himself. The movie was completed before the election, but featured protest-like schemes in which Ahmadinejad's motorcade was mobbed by people seeking to deliver their letters.

The odd thing is many of the issues people are trying to address are symptoms of systemic problems, rather than just individual misfortune. There's "I have cancer," but there's also "I need a bank loan to buy sheep and the banks won't give it to me because they don't have the money," and "I can't irrigate my crops because my village doesn't have access to water." Women waiting in line to see him complain that inflation is so high they can't afford basic food; one cries as she says she had to save for 3 weeks to buy her child strawberries. One person comments that inflation was 10% under the previous administration, and is 90% now. Others complain that although Ahmadinejad promises public works projects in the provinces, inefficient local management means that local leaders only begin them a week before he comes to visit, and stop them after he leaves.

It's excellent PR, and appears to work in some of the poorer provinces (although apparently not in the cities, where a series of cool guys with cigarettes tell the camera the president doesn't do anything.) But even in the rural areas, it seems to be cracking. In one scene, Ahmadinejad has a town hall discussion with farmers. Before speaking, he gets them to chant "Death to America" and "Nuclear energy is our right!" The farmers' concerns, however, have little to do with America or nukes. One old man tells the president he lost two sons in the Iran-Iraq war, and now cannot irrigate his crops because the village has no water. Ahmadinejad promises water will be delivered, and quickly changes the subject to the man's sons, asking if anyone has a picture of the martyr, and giving a long speech about the fallen. He then goes off about how Iran is going to crush its enemies and tells the crowd that there is poverty elsewhere in the world, that the U.S. has 40 million homeless unemployed and no social service agencies. He does not explain what this has to do with bringing water to the old man's crops.

Diversion doesn't work forever, and eventually exposes itself. It did here, where banning gay marriage proved unrelated to providing jobs and health care, and it has in Iran as well. Demonizing others is just no substitute for not sucking.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Freedom is Contagious

In the spirit of the Iranian protests, I thought I should link to a "This I Believe" essay by Harold Koh, a law professor and Obama state dept nominee. He writes about freedom's power to light up people's eyes. Here's the an excerpt:

During the summer that Nixon resigned, I was visiting Seoul. Someone tried to assassinate Korea's president and he declared martial law. I called my father and marveled that Korea had never enjoyed a peaceful transition of government. Meanwhile, the world's most powerful government had just changed hands without anyone firing a shot. He said, "Now you see the difference: In a democracy, if you are president, then the troops obey you. In a dictatorship, if the troops obey you, then you are president."

And so I studied law, became a law school professor and dean, and eventually a human rights official for the State Department. I traveled to scores of countries. Everywhere I went -- Haiti, Indonesia, China, Sierra Leone, Kosovo -- I saw in the eyes of thousands the same fire for freedom I had first seen in my father's eyes. More

Map of Worldwide Iranian Elections Demostrations

View Locations of Iran Elections Protests in a larger map

Wear green to support the Protests

From the Time magazine photo essayThere's a movement encouraging people around the world to wear green in support of the protesters in Iran. This is especially important for us Americans. Obviously, our countries have their political differences, but thousands of ordinary Iranians turned out for vigils in support of the American people after 9/11. Now it's our turn to support them.

Telephone plea

Andrew Sullivan has a telephone plea from Mousavi:


Sunday, June 14, 2009

More Iran...

Andrew Sullivan has fantastic coverage of the events. He posts a particularly interesting unconfirmed leaked vote tally this morning - almost 60% for Mousavi.

Media outage...

I came back home today to find more and more scary reports online about the Iranian elections, and talk of the regime's "coup against its own people." They've blocked texting, Facebook, and most of the major social media sites. The discussion moved to

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Watching Iran's elections

The opposition is complaining that the government shut down their Web sites, newspapers, and cell phone service before the election, and are claiming voter fraud. Last night, a friend and I were talking about the elections, and I pointed out that relatively moderate candidates who get excellent press in the West are not always domestically popular. He was saying that he thinks Moussavi was far ahead in voter polls pre-election. I have to run out the door, but if this is indeed true, it's hugely suspect that he would then turn around and get only 33% of the vote.

So suspect (just to turn everything on its head) that I wonder: if the government rigged the election, wouldn't it have done a better job than that? Wouldn't it be more believeable to declare no one had a majority in this election and give victory to Ahmadinejad in a run off ?

The present turn out 60% Ahmadinejad/33% Moussavi lead to one of 2 conclusions: either the conservatives are actually much more popular than we believe, or the Iranian government is much more out of touch with its people than it believes. If its leaders thought they could get away with rigging an election in such a lopsided way and there's a lot of public outrage...this could be very interesting.

Just a question - a lot of countries accept outside electoral monitors. I think it's unlikely Iran does, but was there any organization monitoring the vote?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

China blocking Twitter, Flickr, Hotmail

China is blocking Twitter, Flickr, and hotmail in advance of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. I'm wondering what affect this will have. James Fallows' article on Chinese censorship in the Atlantic says the the government knows it can't completely censor the Internet, and instead is trying to make it hard enough to access sensitive information that most people won't bother.

I have to get on a bus now, but just wanted to post this.