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Hack Tibet
From: InfoSec News <alerts () infosecnews org>
Date: Fri, 6 Dec 2013 06:09:00 +0000 (UTC)


By Jonathan Kaiman
DECEMBER 4, 2013

DHARAMSALA, India -- Lobsang Gyatso Sither sits at the front of a Tibetan school auditorium, the bright rectangle of his PowerPoint presentation dimly illuminating the first few rows of students before him. "Never open attachments unless you are expecting them," Sither says. The students nod. A portrait of the Dalai Lama hangs above the stage, framed by flickering electronic candles; a stray dog ambles behind the crowd. "Never give anyone else your passwords," Sither says, clicking to a new slide, which explains the dangers of using an unfamiliar thumb drive. "The Chinese government or others could take control of your computer."

Welcome to Dharamsala, population 20,000 and one of the most hacked places in the world. This small city in India's lush Himalayan foothills is home to the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader; the Central Tibetan Administration, or CTA (formerly called the Tibetan government in exile); and a host of Tibetan media outlets and nongovernmental organizations, some of which the Chinese government classifies as terrorist groups. The Dalai Lama fled here in 1959 after communist troops violently suppressed an uprising in Lhasa, now the capital of western China's Tibetan Autonomous Region. India embraced the Dalai Lama as a token of religious diversity, and tens of thousands of refugees followed suit. About 130,000 Tibetans live in exile, according to a 2009 census; Dharamsala is the closest thing they have to a political capital.

The city has an ancient feel. Homes cling to precipitous mountain roads that weave through dense cedar forests; macaque monkeys prance among the rooftops. Yet it is changing, moving cautiously into the future. Computers have become ubiquitous. Roadside cafes offer double espressos and wireless Internet (common passwords include "FreeTibet" and "Independence"). Young Tibetans are snapping up iPhones, which, unlike competing devices, offer the option of a Tibetan-language keyboard.

Communication between the city's Tibetan community and Tibet itself is easier than it has ever been. Yet the risk of dialing home has never been greater. "If we don't use secure lines of communication, Tibetans in Tibet could be prosecuted" for sending sensitive information abroad, says Sither, a field coordinator for the Tibet Action Institute, a New York-based nonprofit that sponsors education initiatives and trains activists on secure communications systems.


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