Monday, June 29, 2009

Why Can't Net Attacks Bring Down Iran Big Brother Site?

Despite calls for denial-0f-service attacks, where users try to bring down a site by flooding it with traffic, all over the blogosphere and "twitterverse", is still up. The Iranian government site has photos of protesters and requests the publics assistance in identifying these "monarchists" and "counter-revolutionaries".

I am a bit suprised that all these have proven ineffective. The strongest of the attacks are not coming from users just reloading their browsers but from botnets. Users load a program onto their computer, or someone else's computer with or without their knowledge, and then it continually loads address. If you can get enough of these zombie computers together you can bring down very large sites.

In the past criminals have done these attacks against online casinos, shutting down the sites and then extorting big cash in exchange for letting the online dice roll again, according to Ethan Zuckerman, social media guru at Harvard's Berkman Center.

But the political uses, which we have seen on both sides of the Gaza War are not often effective says Zuckerman. “All you are doing is knocking the site off the web for a short time systems until the admin finds a way to block your bots. And then they go back up again think it’s a stupid tactic and ineffectve. I am not a fan of censorship of any kind this is a way that silences speech and just makes administator's life miserable. I think there is a much stronger statement going on right now."

But is it censorship to try to knockdown a site used to hunt protesters? And if it's possible to attack casino's why hasn't anyone been able to nail this site? Thoughts?

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Homicide reporting: Some Scenes I Have Seen.

The most memorable reporting I did at the NY Daily News was on murders. In some ways I feel that crime reporting is journalism at its most elemental and crucial.

Local tragedy and violence doesn't make front pages but it has tremendous importance for people in the communities affected - more so perhaps than foreign wars and national politics.

As a reporter just starting out, knocking on doors and talking to family members and neighbors of victims, showed me how important it is for people to feel that their sorrow is not disconnected from the world around them. That it has meaning and shape beyond their house or block.

Those family members were usually so eager to tell me what their child meant to the those in his or her life and how this will affect them. People always wanted to make sure I knew - and that the pubic knew - that their loved ones were separate from the violence that ended their lives. That dying by the sword didn't mean they lived by it.

I have long thought the NY Times is poor at covering the city. It's not just that Metro coverage is given secondary billing - but the level of coverage given to city news is less than what you would expect to see from a good paper in Akron.

The Times often does not cover murders in its city - which offers a hint at how they view the importance of local coverage.

But now the Times offers an interactive map that charts murders throughout the city. Readers can look at patterns in homicides across time and place and make recommendations for trend stories. This seems like a great chance for communities to become more involved in helping to direct important stories. I hope this, along with The Local project partnered with CUNY, is sign that the Times plans to take its job in the city a bit more seriously.

As I was going through the map I found many of the victims I reported on, and I wanted to see if I could use the google maps tool also - but for a more personal purpose. The Times map shows a birdeye view. But I wanted to give an interactive street view of some of my memories.

New Bronx school copes with tragedy of student murders

View Larger Map

Man killed, 2nd hurt at Bronx party

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Man slain in Brooklyn on grandma's doorstep

View Larger Map

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Iran has not yet flipped the switch

There has been much talk of Internet shutdowns in Iran, but according to one expert as of June 14th, Internet in Iran has been running at near its regular levels. James Cowie, CTO for Renesys, a web-analytics company, whatever shortages that happened were very shortlived.

While the government's crackdown certainly appears to be blocking individual sites, the government of Iran appears not to have made any move towards taking down the Internet as a whole – a step taken by the Burma regime in protests in September of 2007. And it would be easy for them to do, according to Cowier, who I interviewed for my story, Iran's Twitter Revolution.

The country has only one major internet service provider, Data Communications Iran (DCI) which is run by the government, and subcontracts to smaller ISPs. “The interesting thing is that they can turn the Internet on-and-off like a light switch. but they have chosen not to do it,” Cowier says.

Cowier has analyzed Internet activity from DCI and concluded that there have not been any major outages. “Iran remains well-connected to the Internet from a routing perspective,” he notes in a blog entry.

While the government has not yet pulled the plug they are definitely restricting the web in other ways.

Here is a video from ITNNEWS on internet problems faced by protesters:

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