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Ushahidi invented it in order to overcome infrastructure challenges–specifically, inconsistent electricity and Internet connectivity–plaguing young upstarts in Nairobi. encountered major, multi-hour blackouts recently, in what appear to be unrelated events: Virgin Media customers across London lost service, while millions of Time Warner customers across the U. and related markets, may be to position BRCK for those exceptional moments–times of disaster, extreme weather, or super remote travel.Turns out, plenty of other people and places face the same challenges; the first run of BRCKs are being delivered this month to users in some 45 countries. S.–with high concentrations in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and Tampa–were knocked offline.“Everyone in the U. is so used to basic infrastructure ‘just working’ that few have a response when things don’t,” says BRCK CEO Erik Hersman. But even just focusing on the so-called developing world, BRCK’s potential market is enormous.The stock hard drive is 4GB, with up to 32GB storage capacity.Born in Sudan and having settled in Kenya with his young family, Hersman believes, “If it works in Africa, it’ll work anywhere.” He sees the company’s base in Nairobi as one of its greatest assets, particularly given its target market.Given the serious cyber threats our country faces, the surveillance benefits realized by law enforcement through the use of IMSI catchers can no longer justify ignoring the cyber security weaknesses in our communications networks that enable their operation.Indeed, policymakers should take a dim view of any aspects of national surveillance policy and practice that rely upon perpetual network vulnerabilities.
Should the Internet be down or not available in a given locale, the device continues operating offline, syncing up when its connection is restored.
“I describe it as a new remix of old technology,” says Hersman, who cut his teeth as a tech blogger.
“That’s the key to understanding Africa’s technology.”Beyond its three connection methods, BRCK can keep users–as many as 20 at a time–up and running for as long as eight hours during an electrical outage.
Such vulnerabilities no longer represent exclusive opportunities for effective surveillance by law enforcement and intelligence agencies since their operational hegemony in this area has long since been lost.
Rather, these security flaws constitute an increasing risk to privacy and public safety that should become the subject of a full and open policy discussion of the kind the FCC’s new task force will presumably conduct. Chairman Wheeler’s framing of the task force as addressing the “illicit use” of IMSI catchers hopefully represents a positive initial step towards protecting our cellular communications.