Short Updates

Collected by the Nor'easter staff

Still Hacking the Planet After All These Years

In early 2009, anarchist hacker Moxie Marlinspike, based in Pittsburgh, Penn., released to the public a program called SSLStrip. The program works by fooling an Internet user's Web browser into displaying a non-secure page as if it were a secure page, thus making any information sent vulnerable to interception. The program exploits vulnerabilities in browsers' implementation of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which is an Internet protocol meant to provide security for information exchanges.

SSLStrip is a type of "man-in-the-middle" (MITM) attack, which is when an attacker places themselves between two victims (for example, the first being someone logging in to their bank account and the second being the Web site of the bank itself) and makes both of the victims think they are communicating with each other, when in reality they are communicating with the attacker. MITM attacks are nothing new. All of the elements that make up SSLStrip previously existed in one form or another. SSLStrip simply combines several vulnerabilities in one easy-to-use program.

The tool was demonstrated by Marlinspike at the Black Hat Briefings in Washington, D.C. in February. Black Hat Briefings are a series of conferences focusing on information security, bringing together the top minds in this field from governmental, corporate, academic and underground sectors.


April 1 and 2, the G20, a group of finance ministers and central bank governors from the world's 20 most powerful economies, met in London, sparking protests and police repression. Beginning on March 28, with 40,000 people participating in the Put People First March, activists from a variety of affiliations made known their opposition to the policies of the G20 and global environmental and social conditions.

On April 1, dubbed "Financial Fool's Day," thousands of people took to the streets of London, converging around the Bank of England. The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), which has received billions of pounds from the British government to prevent it from collapsing, was invaded by protesters who broke windows and went inside, destroying equipment and spraying graffiti.

A Climate Camp was set up outside the Carbon Exchange to protest the practice of carbon trading. Carbon trading is the scheme by wealthy industrialized nations and corporations to avoid reducing their carbon emissions, instead turning the emissions into another commodity to be traded. The camp was complete with kitchens, toilets, tents, workshops, picnics, barricades and more.

On April 2, police raided an activist social center called RampART, breaking through windows and doors and arresting several people. The squatted center was being used by protesters as a convergence space when police forced their way in, detaining everyone, threatening them with tasers and reportedly tearing up floorboards inside the building.

The primary tactic used by the police was that of "kettling," in which lines of riot police surround groups of protesters and hold them in place for several hours, not letting anyone leave without being photographed and identified. The often brutal and aggressive actions of the police led to the death of a man named Ian Tomlinson. He was apparently on his way home from work as a newspaper vendor when he was attacked from behind by riot cops, swinging batons and forcing him to the ground. Several minutes later, Tomlinson died. An autopsy revealed that the cause of death was internal bleeding, and there is a possibility that the officer who hit and pushed Tomlinson could face manslaughter charges.

Rhizome Collective Evicted Collectively

On March 17, the Rhizome Collective, an Austin, Tex.-based group that focuses on urban sustainability, was evicted from their warehouse by City of Austin Code Enforcement. The warehouse, located at 300 Allen St. in Austin, has been used by Rhizome for nine years and was also the headquarters of several other groups, such as Austin Food Not Bombs, Bikes Across Borders and Inside Books.

On March 3, officials from the Buildings and Standards Commission of the City of Austin inspected the warehouse, and on March 5, a letter outlining code violations was delivered to the collective. There were 15 violations in all, including "unsafe sewage systems," most likely referring to the greywater filtration system set up by Rhizome to use otherwise wasted wash-water to feed plants and trees. The residents and organizations that used the warehouse were given until March 16 to vacate the premises.

At the time of the eviction notice, the Rhizome Collective was in talks to purchase the warehouse from its owners. However, due to the cost of bringing the building up to code, combined with the $30,000-a-day fine threatened by the City of Austin, purchasing the warehouse is no longer an option. A 9.8 acre brownfield site, which was donated to Rhizome from the City of Austin in 2004, along with a $200,000 cleanup grant from the EPA, was not affected by the eviction.

The Big Occupied Apple

New York Schools See a New Trend

In recent months, New York City has developed into a hotbed for local university occupation. In December 2008, students at the New School University occupied their Graduate Faculty building at 65 5th Ave., demanding the resignation of university president Bob Kerrey and his executive vice president, James Murtha. Kerrey, who in December received an overwhelming vote of doubt from the faculty at the New School, refused to resign, but agreed not to press charges or reprimand any of the occupation participants. The occupation lasted about 30 hours and ended questionably through negotiations.

Then, on Feb. 18, 2009, students at New York University occupied the Kimmel Center for University Life with a list of demands, such as guaranteeing fair labor practices for all university employees, more transparency for the school budget, and investigations into corporate ties between the university and war profiteers. The administration refused to negotiate, and on Feb. 20, the NYPD stormed the building and arrested or cleared out all occupiers. Many of the students who took part in the occupation were suspended for their involvement. More than 170 NYU faculty members signed a statement calling for the suspended students' return.

Early in the morning on April 10, students at the New School University once again occupied the building at 65 5th Ave., again calling for the resignation of Bob Kerrey and James Murtha. This time, however, no negotiations ensued. Instead, hundreds of riot police arrived, surrounding the building and occupying the roof. Police forced their way inside, spraying tear gas and pepper spray into the building, arresting dozens.

While dissatisfied CUNY (City University of New York) students were protesting tuition hikes earlier this spring, they have not attempted an occupation. In 1990, however, CUNY students did stage a sit-in, stating similar complaints.

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