Covert and Overt Systems for Networked Uprisings

The recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have shown how important Internet access is to protesters, especially if their goal is overthrowing a government.    Even though the governments of those countries seem to lack the expertise necessary to completely cut off Internet access, they have nonetheless severely hindered it for most of their citizens.

I’m not going to get deep into the politics of these two examples.  As naiive as it may sound,  I think Egypt could benefit from some democracy.  Hell, I think the whole region would benefit .

The Israelis, however, are understandably wary of a power shift that would see a reliably peaceful Egyptian regime tossed into exile – especially if its replacement took a turn toward fundamentalism.  And you can see why the US government is being very non-committal with regard to this push for democracy.  In case Egypt’s dictatorship fails to crumble, we need to appear fully supportive of our Cold War leftovers.  (Remember, we support democracy all over the world, unless somebody we don’t like gets elected.)

So, for the sake of argument, let’s say in the somewhat-near future there’s a regime somewhere in the world that you wanted to get rid of.  The people are ready to revolt.  They need Internet access to communicate their plight to the outside world, and to coordinate and plan their protest activities.  But the government has clamped down on all forms of electronic communication. It’s time to send in the drones.

The first step is to get Internet access in-country.  Unmanned aerial vehicles take position throughout the country, establishing satellite links with fat bandwidth.  Some cut their engines and quietly parachute onto rooftops, disguised as common objects such as smokestacks or HVAC equipment. Some latch onto radio towers or telephone poles.

To extend the reach of these nodes, thousands of tiny, solar-powered routers are deployed by air almost like cluster munitions.  Some are disguised as rocks or other natural objects, while others are enclosed in high-visibility orange or green static-proof bags with instructions on how to activate them, where to distribute them, and how to conceal them.

Since the standard mobile phone service is out of commission, thousands of ruggedized smartphones are airdropped as well.  Though they are rudimentary, each phone has the ability to capture and stream full-motion video.  The phones come pre-loaded with popular social networking apps in the country’s predominant language, as well as instructions on effective protest methods (much like these leaflets in Cairo).  These phones are encased in sturdy foam packaging with instructions for activating them.  About one in ten phones come with a hand-crank charger.

It will be important to ensure that implementers of these overthrow networks don’t scope-creep these toys.  The organic nature of social networks in an uprising must be preserved, lest the participants catch on that they’re just pawns.  Ooops, did I blog that out loud?  How cynical of me.

Anywho, let’s hope that one day we won’t need a UN commission for finding and destroying landmines, but instead a commission dedicated to cleaning up and recycling all the e-trash leftover from popular revolts.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by ReverendJoe on June 3, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Great Idea.

    Practical Reality: only to be deployed in countries that sit on LOTS OF OIL.

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