I received this email from Change.org - it was Women and Child Minister for India - Maneka Gandhi petitioning for policy ideas! Whacky, but this is a government for the absurd. I delted the email and forgot about it, till Swarna Rajgopalan asked about it on Twitter. Someone had forwarded the email to her. She couldn't find the link to the petition. So I dug it out of the trash, and went through the email. This is it. As it is. There is no petition it is a carefully crafted promotion of a government form that looks like a notification for a new petition. Additionally, the sender for the change.org email is "Maneka Gandhi" and not "Change.org" as for usual petitions.
I am writing to you to see if you have a new idea for women safety and empowerment.
We at the Ministry of Women & Child Development have formulated the National Policy for Women. It has been a 2 year process with several stakeholder consultations.
This transformative policy will address the needs of women in the New India and also guide the functioning of the Government in decades to come.
We have a draft ready and before we conclude it, I am seeking some out-of-the-box ideas and suggestions from you that could be incorporated into the policy.
Vidyut, I have been happy to take action on Change.org petitions supported by you. We have taken steps to ease the passport rules for children of single parents and control the alarming rates of caesarean section births.
I would now like to hear your suggestions for this policy by the 15th May 2017. Click on this link to submit your suggestion.
You can also send your suggestions on Twitter and on the Facebook page of the Ministry. Don’t forget to add#NationalPolicy4Women on all your suggestions.
Thank you for participating in developing this Policy for Women.
Change.org · 548 Market St #29993, San Francisco, CA 94104-5401, USA
So I made a suggestion:
This is the end of the road for supporting causes on Change.org for me. I had never figured out why anyone needs a special website to create petitions, but given that a majority of petitions are made to the government, a site that gives the government access to its most loyal readers is clearly not one that can be trusted.
The group of hackers made a tweet claiming not to be affiliated with the BJP.
Which is all very excellent, except there are some very good reasons to believe that the hackers could indeed be affiliated with the BJP. And BJP has a long history of its fronts being "apolitical" or "not-affiliated", going right back to a notable event I attended in 2009 or 2010 (I forget), organized by "Friends of BJP" - which claimed to be an apolitical group. Countless Hindu Sena this that and the other variants have conveniently popped up to attack targets of BJP at opportune moments and vanished into obscurity.
India Against Corruption ran a nationwide protest against the previous government. An "apolitical" organization, that just happened to be amply funded by the RSS, included plenty of BJP affiliated public figures, AND had protests happening in front of every BJP office, was... apolitical.
For that matter, the RSS itself, whose members form a large part of the government and who gets foreign funds for rescue and social work, but managed to put LAKHS of its workers on the streets campaigning for BJP's Lok Sabha electoral campaign is.... (you guessed it by now) an apolitical, cultural organization. I hope you get my drift. If it walks like a BJP affiliate, acts like a BJP affiliate, quacks like a BJP affiliate AND it claims to be apolitical...
A heads up by the BJP insider handle
A handle calling itself "BJP insider" had tweeted in July that BJP's IT cell had recruited professional hackers to hack and suspend accounts causing problems to boss (Modi) on Twitter and Facebook. This handle has been around for a couple of years at least and consistently tweets what it claims is the scuttlebutt around BJP headquarters.
Our IT cell has recruited professional hackers to hack and suspend accounts who are causing problems to boss on Twitter & Facebook.
By itself, it may not mean much, as several months had passed. Or it could mean a lot. Who knows. It is hardly like BJP has never hired people to do their dirty work online.
Rumors of targeting of political opponents and critics being planned
After the second week of demonetistion, there were several rumors that BJP had plans to target political opponents in various ways. The manner in which they circulated and the variety of actions being suggested as possible don't suggest a single source.
Also some deliberate events happening to discredit conspicuous critics of the demonetisation gave credibility to the rumors. For example, the most popular one expected was Income Tax raids on people. However the "false alarm" with Mamata Banerjee as well as ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh under investigation for a scam within days of a powerful speech and article pointing out concerns about demonetisation certainly raise questions about the timing.
The targets of the hacks
All the identities targeted are top targets of BJP's online troll gangs. Both individuals and organizations. Incidentally, once this was raised, @Joydas was among the first to comment that a token BJP hack would happen. And it did. No undesirable tweets got posted and a large "dump" of their database was apparently put up that no one seems to have downloaded (because the hotshots basically DoSed their own server with it, looks like). What is in it could be anyone's guess. But given the complete lack of agitation in the bhakts normally frenzied about the slightest adverse development, it is difficult to believe this to be an adverse development.
Symptoms of BJP's photoshop industry at work
Screenshots posted of what appears to be a transaction notification email to Barkha Dutt from the Standard Chartered bank have two glaring issues.
Should be recipient, yes? Strange to believe that either Standard Chartered or a mobile application coder good enough to get the interest of a "hacker" would make such a basic mistake. Leads one to question whether the screenshots are real. It wouldn't be the first time the BJP's photoshop department threw up an "original" document, only to reveal themselves with atrocious spelling mistakes (entire political science, anyone?)
Standard Chartered seems particularly lazy about sending notifications
When is the last time you received bank notification of transaction a day after it happened? And that too for what would apparently be a VIP account given the balances claimed. And no, there doesn't seem to be the possibility of a transaction done just before midnight and notified after midnight, given that this is the afternoon of the next day.
What email application is it anyway?
While I admit I didn't search very hard, I did employ the assistance of google search. The only match anywhere in applications seems to be one called "fake text messenger" - unless of course the hacker built their own email app or has something obscure. Or it may be some custom OS - who knows, maybe will help cops trace the phone.
What navigation is that anyway?
There doesn't seem to be any "menu" provided for this "email". Back arrow next to the icon one can understand - goes back to the archive. Where would an arrow pointing right go? Twitter? :p
No need to delete, archive, etc and reply is out of question of course, given the quality of spellings.
What's that url again?
We have here a banking notification that points to a mobile site at one place and regular site the other. No https (though the url will redirect). Who in the world points to mobile sites in notification emails in the age of autodetection? Probably "hackers" who hack using mobile phones. Either they are very very good or nowhere near the server, given how tricky mobiles can be.
Whoever has seen an email from a bank that ends like this?
No disclaimer text "this is an automated email blah blah blah" What to do if you've got a notification for a transaction you didn't do, etc. No support email... No sign off... really? With half the email being an overlap, unlikely they had to cut it off for space.
Though in all honesty, I don't have a Standard Chartered account, and they may have the casual approach to notifications. If you do have a Standard Chartered account, do me a favor and send me a screenshot of a notification (blurring as appropriate) on Twitter? My handle is @Vidyut
And well, finally... what the hacker chooses to see or ignore
Some emails supposedly "leaked" by the hacker are like total Kashmir Pakistan obsession. I mean seriously, a politically indifferent hacker gets into a big journo's account, and all he can find is emails on Kashmir? ok.
This is probably the first when a hacker out to "expose" missed actionable information (or even to seek it, looks like, if this is the highlight of the hack). For that matter, it could be anyone's inbox.
Worldclass hackers, put up a 98MB download with piddly bandwidth, DoSed their own expose? Hilarious. I suppose by the time the traffic goes down, BJP will have it taken down as "action taken".
If you can download the files they have posted, I would highly recommend you not do so unless you know what you are doing and have secured your machine appropriately. If you have to ask how to, don't.
Maybe it is possible that Legion ain't BJP backed. I'll believe it when BJP arrests them. Surely an attack on a political party, account of an MP and journalists - who have protected sources who could be at risk - warrants investigation and arrests right? So let us see.
Writing this post specifically, because I am normally a vocal supporter of Anonymous and their efforts in freeing the internet. This is one action I do not support.
A few days ago, I retweeted a link to a leak of police data by Anonymous. I should have checked the file first. Contrary to my expectation that there would be important information of interest to the public, it turned out to be a general catalog of complaints made to the police, and while there are enough allegations about all kinds of things, there are unsubstantiated personal views of people filing complaints, and the kind of stuff you would expect to be passing through any police station.
Today, after reading a news story on the leak, I checked the files again, and am convinced that Anonymous made a mistake. This leak does not serve any purpose of fighting government wrongs against citizens, and puts the private information of a lot of people at risk, since while numbers and emails were redacted, names, addresses and so on were not. In my imagination, this was a part of the fight Anonymous was supporting - to protect privacy, but it clearly seems to have gone awry somewhere.
In the article, Anonymous do mention that they are capable of learning from mistakes and it is my suggestion that they make all efforts they can to delete these files off the internet, communicate whatever vulnerability they used to gain access to the database to the police so that it can be fixed and avoid leaks of personal information in the future.
Crossing boundaries of privacy is not useful in a movement that fights censorship and spying on personal information.
Congratulations on your first successful protests in India, and what a way to begin - a dozen cities at the same time!
June 9 happened and Internet Freedom Activists protested in several cities of India.Astonishingly, the call sent out by Anonymous India survived the considerable propaganda machine and made it to the real world. This is no mean achievement for an entity that has just come into bring and spent two weeks or so in promoting their first protest. An entity without any financial or organizational backing to enable protests anywhere.
Considering this, it is amazing that volunteers from various cities organized protests at their own expense and initiative. I also applaud the courage of those who protested. It is very easy to protest in a crowd. You go with the flow. When your group is small, and your goal is already under systematic attack, it takes exceptional courage to be the few men (or women) standing in the spotlight.
Not only did these organizers promote the protests and convince increasing numbers of people to join in, they managed to fund it too. In a few cases, small local groups supported voluntarily, in other places, the protesters didn't know each other at all. It is a tribute to Anonymous striking a note of inspiration that this is possible, and I applaud the call you took and your success in its manifestation. I admit that I was one of the few very skeptical people who thought that the protests would either not happen, or worse happen with really few people in very few locations.
I supported your cause, no doubt, but I didn't think India was ready to speak out on censorship to this extent after struggling to raise support for the Freedom Fast in Delhi recently. I didn't think it possible, but true to the advice I got in one of the interviews, I, being one who thought it was not possible, did not get in the way of people doing it. And it was good advice. Thrilled to be proved wrong.
The response was mixed. The earliest sign of trouble came when the police in Cochin "arrested" six protesters after their protest was done. There was much anger (including by me) but it later turned out that the Cochin police not being informed of the protest had detained them for questioning about the protest and let them go after taking their personal details and making a few veiled threats about them being questioned if there was further trouble.
The worst response of the state happened in Hyderabad and Kolkata. In Hyderabad the protests were supported by the Free Software Movement of India. Protesters were threatened by a senior police officer with arrest and confiscation of protest materials including T-Shirts. They were forced to negotiate when the activists stood their ground and the protest was relocated to the nearby Indira Park with a police escort.
Mamatadidi's Kolkata shines once more - not. About 200 protesters arrived for the protest, and were confronted by the police who allowed them 15 min silent protest. Varying accounts on exact methods agreed that Police noted details and allowed to protest as a split group to look less visible. There were worrisome accounts of indirect intimidation and veiled threats. It says much about the paranoia in Kolkata over dissent that when the police started noting personal details of protesters, the number dropped to a fourth of what it was. Further, after they were forced to leave, when they assembled at a nearby park, plainclothesmen started taking photos of them without any regard to their refusals. At which point they disbanded. But the cops weren't done. They started making individual calls to the numbers they collected interrogating them about their intent and questions like how long they were "gathering online to make protests". Very insane. Mamata Banerjee is increasingly looking like a very worrisome dictator.
And then our President Pratibha Patil shines once more for being anti-people and possibly without even being aware of what gets perpetrated in her name. Protesters in Pune were refused permission to protest anywhere in the city because the President was in the city. Now Pune is huge. Surely there was one corner the President was not Occupying that the common man could Occupy? No such thing. While they did not deny permission on record, they did not give it either (classic Indian red tape). Pune decided to go ahead anyway, but the response was reluctant.
I am interested in knowing how you plan to work around such blocks, because these are important to address, and they hit a lot of citizens routinely if they want to protest anything.
From all accounts, the protests in other places went well. The most life affirming response came in Mumbai, where a protester actually reported that one of the senior officials at Azad Maidan recommended that they repeat their protest soon, if they did not get a good response first time. Win, Mumbai, this is how you win hearts. Hoezaay attended the protest both to support and to report and has a heart warming account of Occupy Mumbai on his blog. A rare worldview, where he staunchly supports the movement, and acknowledges disagreements including areas he doesn't support at all without letting it undermine his firm assertion of the value of the protest in any way. Worth reading.
Occupy Bangalore, Occupy Delhi looked very fun too. The support to the Bangalore protests by FSMK (Free Software Movement Karnataka) who had a parallel protest against the IT Rules was also very appreciated.
Specially worth mentioning is that I was astonished to see that the protests in less publicized places like Calicut, Chandigarh, Jaipur or Manipal go so well. I heard that there was a small protest at Chennai too. They hardly got any attention, but it needs to be acknowledged that they not only have internet users, but they have internet users willing to own a stake in shaping the country's access to the internet. I think this speaks well for our future.
I missed information on Nagpur, Indore, Ahmedabad. I don't think protests happened there.
The response to the protests online was one of initial skepticism followed by a section of people enthusiastically following and spreading news of the various protests. Contemptuous comments about the size of the response persisted, but frankly, I don't give them any weight. In my view, the Anonymous protests were a roaring success. We, of the masala expectations want to see oceans of people to count a protest as successful, since that is the new "benchmark" since the JanLokpal protests. However, the popcorn gallery needs to get a reality check, in my view. Team Anna's protests are coordinated from a central point, backed by organizations with grassroots networks in large swathes of the country. They have funding. They ran SMS campaigns, and did a thousand other things. The handling of the protest is a study in promotion and it was fueled by outrage in the population over corruption.
In comparison, the Anonymous protests are ad hoc. You have no iconic figures, no centralized decision making, no organized reach into the population. Additionally, while almost everyone who understands our IT Act and Rules is outraged, in the physical world, the population of internet users is about 10% and over 99% of those have little awareness of issues like censorship. They will wake up when something they took for granted will not work anymore, or if something they said gets wiped out. Until then, the issue of censorship is not something they expect. Indeed, most Indian users of the internet actually assume Freedom of Expression as described in the US constitution for all intents and purposes. They are not even aware that they could be silenced for being something as subjective as "offensive". Even fewer may be willing to make the effort to actually go to a place and voice support for an idea that their government wants to criminalize. Considering this, the numbers are nothing short of a miracle.
It is a mark of the call of Anonymous capturing the needs and imagination of the people that they can go from being unknowns to having protests in over a dozen cities within a few weeks. A person discounting this has failed to see what is happening among people. Kudos!
That said, I have a few suggestions for Anonymous:
Don't use privately owned public locations (like Malls) for protests unless you know and trust the owning entities as supporters of freedom of speech. It is too easy to evict protesters from private property (even under "inspiration" from the government). Ideally, it should not be so if the protest is not disruptive, seeing as how anyone can enter a mall, and wearing masks is not illegal in India, but remember what we are fighting? Censorship. We have an environment where raising voice against the status quo is almost criminalized by default. We can fight this, but it has to be a separate fight, or it will sabotage this one.
Don't ask for permissions. I have been following your protests with avid interest (including lurking with a nick and being kicked for it) and I have seen that the biggest hurdle to organizing the protests was permissions, which were difficult to get and often for inexplicable reasons. Naturally, if you don't want to break laws, you will have to plan protests that won't need permissions. Smaller groups, other ways of being visible, whatever... and keep the large protests on the ground for special occasions.
Not to mention the fact that apparently you can't protest as an individual in India. Only organizations get permissions to protest. This is very strange and a whole subject in itself. I suggest formally using Anonymous as the name of an organization and if needed, getting someone to register it in some form, so that all future individual protests in the country can simply put Anonymous as the protesting organization and reclaim their freedom to protest - regardless of whether they are Anonymous or not. This will directly make you heroes for many.
The information needs to be documented and organized for easy reference. I know that since all of you are individuals, this is not easy to manage. I will try and help you with this. If/when I get time, or you should ask bloggers and other internetizens who may have time to volunteer and create timelines and archives of links.
While we haven't had much success overturning censorship so far, there are several individuals and organizations working hard to get the IT Rules revoked, for example. They already have in depth and very responsibly conducted research in place, as well as plans on how to make it happen. Anonymous should consider following news on this and throwing their power behind such efforts, since this is one of your goals too. For example, the recent Stop IT Rules Campaign and the Freedom Fast. There are other efforts being made. If you wish, I can try and find out information on this for you. Or, I suppose you have your ways.
While DDoS or defacing attacks are your chosen method, I think if you must break laws and risk your safety for it, then the payoff ought to be higher. In your place I would certainly not risk my safety over blocking access to a site, that too temporarily. Instead, you should focus more on releasing information pertaining to corruption and other damage being done to the country. Information that would otherwise not be accessible to people.
You should consider creating an RTI archive, where people can send you copies of documents they receive through RTI and you make them public - after a certain delay if needed, if there are stories being released on their basis. Such documents should be carefully tagged with all related keywords and be searchable for people needing information. This will propel the country's struggle toward transparency and accountability, provide activists with far larger quantities of information than they can from individual efforts. They will help provide a layer of safety for the lives of RTI activists as well as resist all attempts at silencing. Operation RTI, may I recommend? Additional bonus, you will get a lot of volunteers because it will be totally legal. I can help you with setting it up if needed. I am also willing t host or admin it, but this project cannot be run by a single individual. It will become too large. I will need volunteers.
That I support Anonymous is no secret. I support all efforts at creating a change toward freedoms and inclusion. I supported Team Anna, I support Satyamev Jayate, I support women's rights advocates, I support the campaign to get rid of the IT Rules, I think all these ways collectively add to the momentum. I am not bothered by the flaws of any method as long as they don't harm life and limb, because I have not yet encountered any call for change that was perfect. In my view, change comes through continuous improvement, not perfect solutions. We are a living culture, and we learn from our experiences. To block change for fear of imperfections is a symptom of a defensive mind that fears failure. In my view, rather than block something "because it will not work", it is far more useful to allow it to try and work, and if it doesn't work, it can't be used anyway. In that sense, I may not be a hacker or support some of the methods used by you, but I certainly accept that there is a very real need you are trying to address, and I respect that.
Or in other words, I don't appreciate the idea of servers being attacked. I don't think it is legal, but I think our situation on censorship is far worse. If that is what it takes, I would compare it with stealing the codes of a nuclear bomb to defuse it. Sure, it is stealing, but heck yes, it helps.
I also accept and understand when you say that the advantages such protest offers you may be the only way the protest can be sustained. Words from the interview remain in my mind. You can't be silenced or defamed. Therefore you will be heard. I think you have a point there, when all kinds of dissent is not allowed to stand by personal attacks and discrediting of anyone raising questions, perhaps it is necessary to let the questions stand on their own without anyone to sabotage attached.
There are many things to say. The idea of Anonymous has always fascinated me ever since I heard it. In fact, this blog is founded on a similar idea, though opposite in many ways. You leave behind identity, I use identity as an expression of one reality in the country. But the focus on ideas being the driving force for change is the same. You are the idealism of a generic, nameless human, I am an example human standing as an expression of the reality of many such people. The same idea, abstracted in different ways.
So Anonymous as an idea is very precious to me. And I do believe that it is possible to do great things if we are able to leave behind our identities and image obsessions and work purely in the realm of valuing ideas regardless of source, on their own merit.
Anonymous for the past many weeks had been protesting against the attack by governments and corporations on the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed to to every Indian citizen by the Constitution of india.
The protest began when the Indian ISPs began blocking file sharing sites and other websites under the order of the madras high court.
But was understood as and over done circus due to the fact that entire websites became unavailable when in reality specific URLs were to be blocked.
This we see as an attack on the right to free speech.
The government today censors almost all medias, the press is heavily controlled and hence is unable to speak the truth frankly without taking sides.
During this time it is the Social Media that exist on the Internet that helps people share and know the truth. This is the reason why the government is desperately trying to control the internet. Once the INTERNET is censored we will loose the last and final tool we have left to exercise our freedom of speech and opinions.
Saying that we have right to speak freely and not giving us a tool is a totalitarian system where a sense of false freedom is induced. Hence we Anonymous are today calling to the Indian public to stand up and start fighting.
You the people are the power that should be ruling your country. And not a group of powerful and wealthy corporations and politicians.
On June 9th we will be organizing massive protests in multiple locations all over the country and we are calling every one who can be there to be there. We remind the Indian public that trusting a corrupt government to solve corruption and other problems is like expecting a serial killer to catch himself.
The movements will assigned within the title of Occupy India that will be kicked off this June 9th
The Cities that are getting ready to take part are Bangalore Delhi Mumbai Culcutta Chennai Kochi Mumbai Hydrabad and many more. Any one who feels they need this movement needs to be in their city can start a FB page for the Occupy City movement and let us know about it. We call on the people to help spread this message and get your friends and family to join this noble cause.
This is to be a 100% Non-Violent Civil rights protest.
We will be updating the all the required information to http://opindia.posterous.com/anonymous-to-stage-street-protest-on-9th-june Our twitter handle @OpIndia_Back can be used to communicate with us any time. As planned the protest will take place by 3PM IST on June 9th the Saturday.
The directives for the safety and proper functioning of the protest is available at http://pastehtml.com/view/bzi0nxrkz.html
Remember people of India if you do not wake up and fight, No One Else will do it for you.
We are calling for the 99% to rise against the 1% who is trying to steal from their great nation and make them their slaves. We call to you India Rise India We are with you and let us together start the revolution to make this place a better one
We ALSO CLEARLY DISCLAIM ANY CLAIMS BY POLITICAL PARTIES OR GROUPS IN SUPPORT OF US WE DO NOT LINK WITH ANY GROUP AND ANY GROUP THAT TRY TO LINK SO IS TRYING TO FOOL THE PEOPLE