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Ask HN: My country may be in the midst of a coup – how should I get prepared?
274 points by ahmedfromtunis 50 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 176 comments
I'm sure some of your heard about what's happening in my country, Tunisia. (tldr: the president made some 'unconstitutional' moves to thwart rampant corruption. Five days later, everything seems fine ... for now).

Even though it seems the president is keeping his promise on freedom of speech, I don't think it would be extravagant to get prepared for the worse.

So, what should I do to keep myself safe online?

Edit: I'm not worried about my physical safety, I'm just asking about protecting my privacy online if the government decides to go full on Big Brother.

P.S.: I tried to submit this question with a throwaway account, for obvious reasons, was told to "please slow down".

Hey Ahmed I live in Tunisia too. You seem to be young enough to not remember how it was to live under the dictatorship 10 years ago. I'm a political activist from the Pirate Party, and I've been arrested twice under the dictatorship and I'm not as worried as you are. Send me an email if you want to chat. I'm slim@pirate.tn

[Some time later] I'm glad you contacted me Ahmed. Lesson #1: Don't trust random people on the internet. The secret police are everywhere. Now come with me down to the police station so we can get you booked and interrogated.

Slim Amamou is not random. Maybe not quite famous but he is a bit known in Tunisia.

And there is no secret police in Tunisia for now. The current plot is quite amateurish but given history (Cuba/Fidel) anything is possible.

I didn't mean to make equivocations to any modern or historically violent regimes, though perhaps I was too flippant in using the term "secret police". I'm well aware that Tunisia (now and even years ago) has a much stronger civil society than most if not all of the Arab world, and in many respects comparable to Europe. It's no coincidence that it was the first (and arguably only) country to transition to democracy during the Arab Spring.

My point was just that if you're worried about the consequences of your country slipping back into authoritarianism, obviously you'll want to 1) be more prudent about what you say, and 2) be more rigorous in practicing trust & verify--both regarding the trustworthiness of the person purporting to speak with you, and that they're actually that person, much like if a bank or journalist contacted me. (I always try to verify both, with varying degrees of rigor depending on consequences. And I'll never provide personal information, confidential or otherwise, over an incoming phone call; I always ask for a callback number that I can verify.)

Suffice it to say, even in robust democracies you can be interrogated by police for making innocuous statements online. A couple Muslim friends experienced exactly that (repeatedly) in the aftermath of 9/11. That was wrong and harmful, but there was never any threat or perceived threat of physical harm. I didn't mean to denigrate Tunisia by suggesting it would be so quick to descend into a thoroughly repressive and violent dictatorship. The world is much more complex than as portrayed in Hollywood and pulp history.

To the extent my comment made a caricature of Tunisia, I apologize.

> And there is no secret police in Tunisia for now.

If you knew about them they wouldn’t be secret now would they?

The secret police is basically a non-legal entity operating illegally to do stuff for the dictator/authoritarian regime.

:) While this was good advice under the dictatorship, it is not anymore. He specifically said he's not concerned about his physical safety. Tunisia is not like saudi arabia or syria anymore. It's as safe as any western country. And he can easily check me out, I'm on HN since 2007.

But there is no way to confirm if this account had been compromised is there?

You need to rely on the fact that I am able to maintain the security of my public accounts and that if one of my accounts was compromised I would have detected it and published a notice on another channel (twitter for example)

That's where Keybase works better IMO.

> It's as safe as any western country.

Citation needed.

Tunisia's life expectancy is 76.7 years. The United States's is 78.7 years. A difference of two years compared to the most wealthy nation on the planet is minor.

In fact, your average person in Tunisia is likely to outlast your average person in many US States:


And in France it's 82.7 years, the wealth of the US doesn't directly translate to good life expectancy, especially when you've got so many inequalities. The highest life expectancy is at 85 years in Japan. The average life exepctancy in the world in 72.6 years, 79 in Europe, 82.5 in Western Europe. With all due respect to Tunisia, it's better than average but still lower than "any western country".

The wealth of the US comes from a few people being extraordinarily wealthy.

The p20 of wealth isn't great in the US

> And in France it's 82.7 years

It depends on your occupation (and probably on other factors too).


Yes, that's how averages work.

Countries also count deaths differently. Some will count a premature baby at 26 weeks that dies as a death (the US), while others just say “it was never viable” so not a death.

Don’t need to average very many “zeros” to bring down an average.

That sounds wrong. There’s a whole range of life expectancy metrics that are calculated carefully as they constitute a fundamental metric about a population in everything from the insurance industry to the health industry. Life expectancy metrics are heavily used for geographic and historic comparison as they have standard and specific definition. The starting age is always specified - e.g. life expectancy at 18 or 60 or whatever. When the age is not specified, the implied age is zero or “life expectancy at birth”. I’ve never heard of “life expectancy at conception” nor can think that one country would calculate it but use the value for “life expectancy at birth”.


There is huge variability in how deaths are reported for newborns.

“Many countries, however, including certain European states (e.g. France) and Japan, only count as live births cases where an infant breathes at birth, which makes their reported IMR numbers somewhat lower and increases their rates of perinatal mortality.[111] In the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, for instance, requirements for live birth are even higher.”

Variances in how countries calculate IMR don't affect the calculation of life expectancy at birth which is a standardised measure - see https://www.who.int/whosis/whostat2006DefinitionsAndMetadata...

You link shows a standard way to calculate infant mortality if the baby is born alive. That’s my point, no every country counts those the same.

Read the “Methods of estimation” section where the standardization process is described. This would be a lot simpler is you could simply provide a reference to support the claim that the life expectancy at birth metric in the USA is calculated differently to that in other countries. Your claim seems to based on differences in calculation a different metric, infant mortality rate.

This is either erroneous thinking or intentionally misleading. Conflating "outlasting" with "safe" is problem number 1. Problem number two is they said "any western country" and you picked one pretty far down the list. Many western countries have a life expectancy well into the 80's so your citation only works against their argument.

it's clear that OP meant that there are no major differences in safety between Tunisia and a random western country. Meaning you don't have to worry about getting robbed or whatever more than you would in say, England. People don't speak with exactitude, it would be weird.

You do not want to use the US as your role model.

We're not talking averages here though are we? Generally dictatorships are *fine* if you don't get political.

Thank you for pointing this out.

The bad thing about Dictatorships is not the lack of freedom, it's the balancing act of resources and freedom. Wealthy dictatorships really are as chill as any rich democracy as long as you don't start poking the leadership with political ideas that don't benefit them.

However, a lack of resources in Democracy or dictatorship will 100% result in civil unrest.

Which is interesting because people always adapt to whatever situation they are in. I recall this lady being interviewed on Al Jezeera near the bombardment zone in the Gaza strip a few months ago. She was frustrated about little things like kids not going to school, a bus route being destroyed and what not. Nowhere in her statement did she mention that she and her family just had missles landing a few hundred meters away in the dead of night.

Humans are interesting.

"Wealthy dictatorships really are as chill as any rich democracy as long as you don't start poking the leadership with political ideas that don't benefit them."

Unless of course you are in the way of some of the powerclique and they decide to take over your buisness or land without compensation.

Or the spoiled son the of the dictator (or the dictator himself) wants to bang your daughter or your wife. And maybe kills her while doing so. And anyone witnessing or complaining. That means officially also in a dictatorship no one does that. People just go missing or have accidents. Or found guilty of some other "crime".

Exaggerating? Well, I just read a book about Trujillo, the former dictator of the dominican republic, it is quite interesting. But he did not invented power abuse. Anywhere where there is unchecked power, those things happen.

And to your mind Bolivia is a thriving economic hub to warrant being a weathy dictatorship?

Whatever the case may be, bad apples abound. Thats just human nature. Just because democratic leaders dont do things publicly, I think you should disabuse yourself of the notion that they are incapable of depraved acts of violence. Sexual or otherwise. Amd while they might not inflict such violence on their constituents - people from poorer countries have no such luck.

What's the title of the book?


By Mario Vargas Llosa.

I can recommend it, very well written and structured, but note, that it is a work of fiction based on historic events. (and some historic events gets changed)

If your idea of west is US, and think that it should be your target as a society, i think you're better as Tunisia

you can cite me. I live here. And I travelled a lot


Nobody said Tunisia is anything like the West. He claimed that it is "as safe as any Western Country". If we go by homicide rate, Tunisia's is lower than the US.

It seems incorrect to use US homicide rate as an argument when talking about being "as safe as any Western Country". US is an outlier in that regard [0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intention...

Really depends which metric you're looking at when measuring safety to be honnest. Granted US have some of the richest and safest places in the world, they also have plenty of other places straight from a 3rd world country. The US approach to health is terrible compared to many other countries. Homicide rate is much higher. If you think USA is politically safe, January 6th would like a word with you.

great! it's 1:30 am here and I'm up for a flame war. So I will argue that Tunisia is safer than USA because 1) guns are illegal 2) police is not racist. BTW I traveled to USA, did you travel to Tunisia ?

I know nothing about Tunisia, but worth noting that safety in the USA is extremely varied, depending on where you live, what color your skin is. We have some of the most dangerous places in the world in the USA, and some of the safest. It's a big, weird country.

Do your school have shooting drills?

> guns are illegal

Yeah that worked for Brazil and other countries.

> police is not racist

Sure they are. You are likely to get away without a ticket, an accident or even an arrest if you correlate with the guys. It just happens that the police has a bunch from everywhere. Let's not pretend that Tunisia's police is not as corrupt as it can be.

> Yeah that worked for Brazil and other countries.

Hello from Australia, where guns are very restricted. It works well, thank you. In fact it works well in more counties than it doesn't.

You're assuming causation, but a careful look makes the situation much more muddied. In Australia, for instance, violent crime was on the downwards trend (like in the developed world generally) before strict gun laws. It continued on that trend after implementation.

It's corrupt, maybe sometimes regionalist (which I'm not sure I agree with) but not racist. Like someone is not treated differently because his skin is dark for example. They are generally not polite with anybody regardless of their "race".

Well yes, a police being unfriendly to anyone is probably better than a police being unfriendly only to certain skin colors or status. I remember travelling in Morocco (and also western sahara), where the police was very friendly with me. But I was a western tourist and the police was ordered by the king to be very friendly to tourists. From the locals I heard different stories.

Same in Tunisia, and honestly I'm quite for it. In the Philippines, the police doesn't care about the tourists. The locals sees that and as a result tourists get mugged a "lot". I had my phone stolen and the police seemed to "enjoy it".

A tourist is very unlikely to be mugged in Tunisia (comparing to a Tunisian person) because the police is more reactive when it comes to tourists.

As a result you have a country of 11.5 million and 9.5 million tourists in 2019 despite all the crap that the country is going through.

So do you think the police treats tourists worse in Philippines, or all equally bad? (except the local powerclique)

In either way, I rather have a police treating all people with respect.

How does Tunisia compare with say Alabama or Mississippi?

edit: looks like my question hit a nerve with some people?

My experience of living in the south after growing up elsewhere was absolutely a feeling of being sidelined from the full opportunity previously known to me. Its a bit like being in a hole. Everything is cheaper, including wages. Meaning its harder to leave than to enter.

I think the bigger problem is people just not taking you or natives there seriously. I could write a book on all the shenanigans faculty try to pull on people who they think haven't been to "real" R1 universities elsewhere, for example, and think they can get away with.

NB: I live in Louisiana and my brother works for an international NGO but had based himself in Tunisia. He was supposed to fly back there Monday but delayed his flight a week. My friend was supposed to visit Yassine Ayari and she ended up arriving at his house right after he was arrested.


Life expectancy at birth (in years):

Alabama: 75.1

Mississippi: 74.6

Tunisia: 76.7

Given the number of extra-judicial murders and beatings carried out by United States police, I'm not sure this is the selling point you think it is.

Though popular fodder for the media because they are profitable, killings by cops are extremely rare. I believe there are about 1000 murders-by-cop in the U.S. (a nation of 330,000,000 people) in a year, and in the vast, vast majority it is not at all ambiguous whether or not the cops acted in good faith. Picture someone running around stabbing people: the cops killing that person isn't something most people would find questionable.


It’s difficult to describe this as anything less than divorced from reality. Free speech is alive and well in America.

You can't appeal to Supreme Court pro se anymore. Can you in Tunisia?

> You can't appeal to Supreme Court pro se anymore.

Do you have a citation for that? Here's the US Supreme Court accepting a pro se appeal in 2019:


I think the issue is actually appearing before the Court, in your case Gershengorn will do it for the incarcerated litigant.



you're overestimating Tunisian police, I don't think they ever heard of HN, and the situation is not that grave for them to check random forums

slim is pro-coup and our guy here is obviously against it. it makes the situation a little bit difficult.

This is not funny or clever. It's ghoulish.

This is also a valid warning to not trust immediately. This kind of reaching out is exactly what many other groups do.

It's satirical to hammer home the point to tread carefully with advise from random people on the internet.

It is also a very good point in this situation. Just look at how many informers there were under the Stasi…

It's funny, clever, and ghoulish.

Hey Slim, nice work, "Mass Gmail Phishing in Tunisia" you got them by the balls, but why the same brutal policing everywhere, who trained them thugs? https://advox.globalvoices.org/2010/07/05/mass-gmail-phishin...

French police trained them (Tunisia was a colony of France during WW2)

I'm starting to think that the French police are the worst in the EU at least. And here I was thinking that the Dirty Harry cop in the Dobermann movie was a caricature. Looking at the news of the last few years it seems they really are that deranged.

1. Police answer a domestic case by kicking down the door and shooting the father of the (Asian) family without warning:


2. Riot cops shoot a mother and her children at the outskirts of a Gillets Jaunes demo, one of the kids loses a hand:


3. Police anally rape a young (black) man with an expandable baton during an identity check:


4. Police assault a (black) musician in his studio, allege "smell of cannabis" emanated from within:


And all this is happening in a democratic country at the heart of the EU. If the police in Tunisia are taking lessons from the French police, I'd be worried about the safety of anti-regime Tunisians.

Of note, I come from a European country that is ostensibly a democracy and I know well that all the democratic laws in the world are not enough to control a bunch of jumped-up brutes given the authority to beat up their fellow citizens.

Those are terrible things, but in order to understand them in anything approaching a meaningful way you need to have the denominator. How many people are there in France? How many police interactions in a year? Without meaningful denominators to give context it doesn't help to know these things, and I'd argue you should probably avoid knowing them. I think you should avoid knowing them because they are merely attempts to exploit your attention for revenue.

Tunisia never was a colony of France, it was a protectorate. Words have meaning, so please stop spreading disinformation.


"Le protectorat colonial se distingue de la colonie dans la mesure où un territoire colonisé est placé sous l’administration directe de la métropole dont il fait partie intégrante, tandis que le territoire sous protectorat conserve théoriquement une relative autonomie." https://bibliotheque-numerique.diplomatie.gouv.fr/MEAE/fr/pr...

France does not get to invent a new name for colonialism and just get away with it

And Egypt was a "protectorate" and Sudan and Vanuatu were "condominia", let's get real here.

Do not do this.

This what and why?

Who's to say it isn't a possible honeypot?

Best security results in his situation might be to * keep head down * move out of country * trust no one

Download and start using the Tor browser as soon as possible, for as much as you can.


Disable javascript whenever possible. Check your browser fingerprint.


Practice grey man tactics in your online and real life situations.


Download the U.S. Army survival guide, and others. Download other books, audiobooks, movies, games, and other entertainments to your physical devices in case the internet goes down, or certain services start to get blocked in your country/city/neighborhood. Get at least a small battery backup solution to keep your devices running if the power goes out. Augment with solar charging if possible.

To the OP: Do not follow advice on HN. Find information from real security experts. Real security is complex, expensive, and difficult.

To the parent: Please don't do this. It is dangerous and irresponsible to advise someone at risk unless you know what you are talking about, and while I wouldn't comment in a casual conversation, in this case it's important to point out that your comment is ignorant and dangerously wrong. It is Internet misinformation that many seem to collect and repeat to each other, which on the Internet gives it a veneer of truth. You wouldn't give medical or legal advice to someone who faced serious health or legal risks unless you were a doctor or lawyer (I hope). What if the OP follows your advice and ends up tortured in prison?

My understanding from actual IT security experts:

Tor Browser might help with mass data collection by businesses like Google, but it's the worst choice for threats by government or by others who have extra-legal powers: First, it signals that you are hiding something; it attracts attention: not everyone using Tor Browser is a dissident, but the proportion of dissidents among the Tor Browser population is much higher than among the Chrome and Safari populations. Second, it is based on a relatively insecure browser, Firefox, and then it is modified by a team that simply lacks the resources to design and implement proper security. Again, security is complex, expensive, and difficult. The obvious tactic for the attacker is to infect every Tor Browser visiting dissident resources.

> Disable javascript whenever possible. Check your browser fingerprint.

If you are using Tor Browser with JavaScript disabled, you've already identified yourself as part of a tiny population. Narrow that to the subset that visits Tunisian dissident websites, and the authorities might know everyone in that population by name.

> Do not follow advice on HN

Except for yours I'm guessing?

I'm repeating what I've read by security experts, so that the misinformation doesn't go unchallenged. However, I would say don't trust your safety to the advice of anyone on HN (except a recognized security expert), including mine.

> a relatively insecure browser, Firefox

In what way is Firefox any more insecure than Chrome or Safari?

Seeing as how can very obvious to your ISP when you use Tor, I would take this advice with caution. I agree that you should download Tor Browser and get used to using it, but also think hard about whether it would be a problem if you were found to be using it, say from home.

The Whonix wiki has lots of good tips for digital hygiene in unfriendly environments. Same with the anon guide. --this comment posted via the wonderful community project named Tor

There is a transfer strategy designed to look like typical Internet/WWW activity, but I don’t know how true that is.

I believe that's an option if you connect to tour using a bridge, but that's not the default.

Tor has alternative transports (bridges) that are meant to disguise the use of Tor on the local network, they should help with the obviousness issue.

Tbh if I wanted to fly under the radar, I’d use something that looks like a corporate VPN, but self-managed instead of Tor.

Yagi antenna, some faraway open wifi, tor browser.

What's kinda creepy in the Tunisian situation, is the amount of false information being spread on social media, especially Facebook.

For example, there are several posts of a screenshot of an aljazeera post, next to a not fully loaded screenshot of Blinken's twitter claiming that aljazeera mistranslated the tweet.

The narrative they are trying to push is that aljazeera is biased and therefore the president was justified in ordering its office raided.

Had the tweet's page been allowed to fully load, it would have shown that Blinken's tweet was part of a thread where the second tweet matches what Aljazeera said.

src: https://old.reddit.com/r/Tunisia/comments/out08w/influencers...

Even creepier, I saw that one of my acquaintances had shared one such post. I commented to inform them of the situation and linking the official tweet thread.

My comment got removed for "spam" (I only posted exactly one comment, once) and there was no option to appeal the removal. I contacted her through private channels and she claims she didn't even see the comment. (I presume the automated systems saw that tweet's link was being posted a lot??)

So not only is the false information kept up but attempts to correct it through discussion are automatically removed.

> What's kinda creepy in the Tunisian situation, is the amount of false information being spread on social media, especially Facebook.

That is very common everywhere, including in the US. Think about QAnon and other conspiracy theories.

> So, what should I do to keep myself safe online?

You may not be able to keep yourself online at all. Turning off the internet is part of the script for dealing with unrest.

If you can, try to setup a way to dial-up a foreign ISP with a modem. xs4all used to be a goto provider for this, but other comments say they're shutting down their dial-up service October 1. Might be useful as an available target to test with though.

Sometimes it's less expensive for outside countries to call you than for you to call out, but a quick look shows rates to Tunisia to be quite high, so probably figure out where is the least expensive to call, and then see if you can find a dial-up ISP there, and see it you can get a connection. Landline is obviously preferred here, but expense might be too great.

POP3 + TLS email with GPG if you can make it happen and a contact outside the country to help would work the best. International calling could get cut off too, of course, but it might be done later. And calling internationally might get you put on a list, so there's that, too.

Good luck and stay safe.

Wouldn't the government say "wth are you doing with that dial up call everyday" and of course find out what the dial up signal is about?

Download https://tails.boum.org/ and put it on a thumb drive. Keep the drive somewhere safe.

If you use any cryptocurrencies, put them in a cold wallet and encrypt + hide your keyphrase (not on the usb drive, somewhere that's safe and away from where you are).

After that... keep your head down and don't make yourself a target!

One additional note, even though you said you're not worried about your physical safety -- set up meeting points with your loved ones away from your home in case something should happen and you can't get back there. If someone runs into trouble and can't communicate, it can be helpful to know where to meet up (same suggestion I'd give to someone moving somewhere with lots of natural disasters, fwiw)

Start you some alternate, backup accounts on sites that you might want to keep using. have email accounts at several providers and scatter the other accounts among them. Premade throwaways, if you will, to prevent what just happened to you repeating.

Deleting things off the net isn't reliable; but if you've said things you might worry about later you can go delete them now and at least you'll be able to point to that as a disavowal if need be. If you're really worried about something you've said, maybe update it with a retraction an/or publish such separately.

And of course VPNs etc etc... act like you're selling horse porn and keep some in stock, just for cover.

The thing is that I'm a journalist, and of course I said a lot of bad things about the president (even called for him to resign) as well as the government he sacked, and much more.

So, on that front, I think my options are limited.

But, yeah, setting up a vpn and alternate accounts is a great idea to avoid spying and all that kind of stuff. Thanks!

Ahmed, all this thread is terrible advice. My advice, if any, is to fly. If for whatever reason you can not fly, the only way left is to see their humanity and show yours. In that order.

> I said a lot of bad things about the president (even called for him to resign) as well as the government he sacked, and much more.

I wouldn't worry about it much at this particular point. Said is a textbook dictator but they only have enough manpower and everyone is still everywhere when it comes to publishing stuff. Only those who are very visible will be targeted at first.

> So, on that front, I think my options are limited.

I'll start contacting embassies on Monday. Many people do this as a scam (for homosexuality) and for many of them it works. Start building a profile with these embassies.

You'll unlikely be subjected to torture (or killing) but maybe arrested for a few days or messed with lightly. Keep that as evidence for your asylum application.

Why should someone trust their safety to these people? I see no security professionals; I wouldn't hire them in a security role at a business with much less at stake. Here are the relevant bios:

> Harlo Holmes is the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) and Director of Digital Security at Freedom of the Press Foundation. She strives to help individual journalists in various media organizations become confident and effective in securing their communications within their newsrooms, with their sources, and with the public at large. She is a media scholar, software programmer, and activist; and was a regular contributor to the open source mobile security collective The Guardian Project. Harlo is also an adjunct professor at New York University.

> Conor Schaefer is the Chief Technology Officer at Freedom of the Press Foundation, overseeing automation and deployment for the SecureDrop platform, and managing backend infrastructure for technical projects. He has previously worked as a Linux sysadmin and developer for academic researchers, and taught computer literacy and IT certification courses for the underprivileged.

> Olivia Martin is the Deputy Director of Digital Security at Freedom of the Press Foundation. A graduate of NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, her professional work focuses on researching and delivering digital security trainings to journalists, activists, and human rights defenders. She has spent years in newsrooms as a designer and editor with new media and student publications, and uses this experience to aid in assessing the evolving needs of journalists in today's media landscape.

Might offline maps be helpful? For getting around when Internet access is pulled, convenience but also if you actually want to see how to get to another town or country without taking the obvious roads. Downloading relevant maps from osmand.net/download.php onto a hard drive and knowing how to load it on your phone might be a way to do that. Or just keep it on your phone if you have the space.

What about power, do you think they'd pull power from regions so you don't have mobile phones to communicate anymore? Phones are efficient enough that hand charging should be pretty doable, so you can charge whenever you need to access any info (be it a map, or other offline info that you downloaded).

I would make sure I have all of my documents straight.

Those institutions may crumble and you'll be hard pressed to get replacements if you don't already have. Passport, Id's, etc.

Would move out of the capitol city if possible.

Basically prepare for the equivalent of a natural disaster. Food, water, gasoline, radios. You can google that kind of thing.

Get as much cash as possible.

I don't know what gun laws are like but you could proabaly get ammo and guns and hide them somewhere. Those are always valuable during crisis.

Other people had great ideas for the digital life.

One thing you need to do is establish a set of pre-shared keys or passpharses with someone you trust outside of the country. Take a look at https://www.openkeychain.org/. You can take a look at a guide I wrote for people travelling into hostile network areas and adapt some of it to your perosnal circumstance: https://www.anomie.tech/craft/secure-tunnel/ Get yourself a good high gain directional wifi antenna to support physically distant network connections. Make friends with any HAM radio operators in your country. Maybe buy your close friends some out-of-band communications tools such as https://gotenna.com/ If you'd like more advice feel free to reach out to me. [EDIT] forgot to add, it is very much worth having a satellite channel for basic communications. The cheapest, most consumer friendly is the Garmin https://discover.garmin.com/en-US/inreach/personal/

I actually think openkeychain is a bad recommendation. PGP is notoriously hard to use properly, it's not forward-secure, and unlike most PGP users, OP actually needs reliable security.

I'd honestly just use Signal or something like it.

OpenKeychain usage isn't limited to PGP in email. It's quite easy to use to simply encrypt files or short strings for use in other mediums. Yes, I'd use Signal for what it was designed for: secure chat in circumstances where I trusted both my phone and my counter parties phone. But learning to use an additional tool for different circumstances in his context I don't think is that hard.

I’m from Turkey and I’ve been wandering for a while now what can I do to still have internet access if the government decides to shut everything down.

I’ll use thread to ask: what would be the cheapest way to have an emergency internet access? I guess Starlink kinda solves this problem but paying 100USD/m is a lot for a backup connection.

How fast does it need to be? The cheapest option I can think of offhand is doing Internet via a HAM radio [1]. It's not fast, at all (I think I saw 500 kb/s in the article), but they say it's only $80 USD for the hardware, with a 300km range. You just need someone friendly, outside Turkey, within 300km who will let you borrow a bit of their WAN link, or who will let you pay them.

[1] https://spectrum.ieee.org/build-a-longdistance-data-network-...

This is awesome. 300km is beyond the curvature of the earth by a significant margin -- I wonder how it works... Thanks for posting it.

EDIT: The hackaday page (https://hackaday.io/project/164092-npr-new-packet-radio) is talking about 10{,0}Mbit as of 2020:

> Important firmware update about Ethenet mode configuration 10Mb/s or 100Mb/s, half or full duplex; it can solve a recurrent problem of packet loss and low datarate. Refer to the new version of the "advanced user guide". Many thanks to Kevin M0AHN who discovered the origin of the problem.

I wonder if it's possible to get that kind of bandwidth...

EDIT2: Apparently you can get up to 500kbps outside of the US (https://elekitsorparts.com/product/npr-70-modem-by-f4hdk-new...) but within the US, due to regulations, you can only get 65kbps:

> Note for USA : Due to CFR 47 Part 97.3 FCC regulations, for the 70cm amateur radio band (restriction to 100kHz and 56kBaud), only the setting “modulation 20” of NPR-70 seems to be legal in USA. Please always check your local amateur-radio regulation before buying and using NPR70. Modulation 20: Symbol Rate 50kS/s, bandwidth 100kHz, raw datarate 100kb/s raw, usable datarate 65kb/s.

Still, you can do a lot with 65kb/s. Hmm.

Of course, in the US, you probably have cell service. Neat hack though.

> 300km is beyond the curvature of the earth by a significant margin -- I wonder how it works...

70cm is similar(ish) to 2 meter (which can propagate even over oceans):


Pool the money with friends, family, neighbors that also want access? There also used to be dial-up available like from XS4ALL (you'd dial a Dutch number with your modem), but very practical I can't imagine it is.

No real solutions, just thoughts. Hope it helps a little anyhow.

Sadly, xs4all is dropping its dialup support on October 1, it's parent company is slowly dressing the brand down to the bare minimum. Use it now if you need or want to, but don't rely on it exclusively.

> What would be the cheapest way to have an emergency internet access?

How close do you live to the border?

People are doing interesting things with mesh networks.

Who is? What network(s) are they connecting to? Do you remember how slow Google WiFi Mountain View was?

is starlink available everywhere now??

Make low key contact with a journalist you trust from one of the big agencies or papers, i. e. Reuters/AP/NYT/CNN, maybe Spiegel.

When the shit hits the fan, they'll be interested in even mundane are-the-shops-still-stocked / what-do-people-think etc. information. After it's over, they'll come and need "stringers", driving them around, translating, arranging interview partners, etc.

They have no trouble paying a few hundred $ per day (for the full-time role), and it can lead to something more permanent, abroad, whatever.

But, of course, be absolutely sure you're safe. The risk isn't so much zero-day exploits used to get into your phone, but your good friend selling you out, or someone fining some notes you threw away.

That's only if any of the parties actually object to the international press, which is relatively rare–domestic news is dangerous, international is PR. For 35 years, every time the US has bombed some country, there were CNN journalist on the ground. And while it has on occasion gone wrong, STDs have been more of a risk than the host countries.

Edit: just saw that you are a journalist, so this fits. I'd probably tend to prefer to appear to be as boring as possible. So unless you're already known anyway, driving a taxi may be preferable to running around with a notepad. And while encryption is better than plain text for anything that matters, having no data whatsoever is preferable to having encrypted data.

Also, nobody here knows what they're talking about. If in doubt, trust your instincts.

Take the time to create a bunch of throwaway accounts; e-mail, social media, VPN, etc. Don't use them from your personal/work/mobile ISP, save them for VPNs/cafes/etc. Reserve any "questionable" online activity for those accounts on connections not linked to you. Basically, be a "normal" internet user in daily life, but if there is a crackdown, use those alt accounts from a non-standard connection.

Please read through all of https://ssd.eff.org

Their Surveillance Self Defense project was literally created for people like yourself. Stay safe!

Did we just kill the site? We had one guy who needed it!

I think so, but I did let them know on Twitter.

Hopefully the situation would stabilize soon.

Meanwhile, if you consider yourself more in a danger to become a 'collateral damage', so to speak, in a power struggle that 'others' do, then the most reasonable strategy could be just staying-low and having sufficient resources to live through such time.

Especially so if you have something that may make your position vulnerable (family, assets, business, prominence etc).

If you don't have an imminent need to flee (hopefully your assessment is sound), then not turning attention to yourself should let you weather this period of instability, just as for the most part of the populace.

Know your friends! Don't self-incriminate, know what you keep on your devices and storage. Be like everybody, just live your life, if you can afford not to choose a side.

Have a plan B (even C) about money, not just relying on the routine access way.

Freedom of speech _is_ important. However, if you don't consider yourself part of the struggle, then just wait it out.

Stay healthy!

Have you / your journalist group considered using Outline [1]?

I think you can get by on either the GCP or AWS free tiers for hosting the server (and/or DO at $5/month for unlimited bandwidth). At that point, you’ve got your own, controllable VPN that looks like a major cloud provider. So only if we they decide to really clamp down on “block all GCP/AWS/DO IPs” do you lose access.

[1] https://getoutline.org/

I think it might be helpful to transfer information that you have online that is critical, such as contacts, to hard copy. A lot of folks have mentioned some very good ways of keeping yourself safe online, but in a coup, I think some of the first things to go we’re going to be Internet access and power. Having contact information and other important details that you usually keep online, could be very useful.

I often wonder what I’ll do when instability comes to the United States. The only solution seems to be having more than one citizenship. I think that people who are stuck in one country will be looked down upon like the way many people look down upon the uneducated. Both groups are in a sense transient. Global citizens will have a much higher standard of safety and stability.

Disclaimer: I don't know about Tunisia, take this as general advice.

If you use encryption at any level, always do that in a way that offers plausible deniability. If "they" suspect you are carrying sensitive information of national security importance, and you can't or don't want to decrypt that information on request, you, or someone you love, will likely be tortured to extract from you that information.

I read suggestions about using Ham Radio gear for long distance communications or slow Internet connection. Keep in mind that encryption is forbidden for Ham radio operators; you would immediately draw the attention, and finding a rogue transmitter is extremely easy even in case you transmit for very short intervals. Keep Ham Radio gear at hand as it could become useful, but don't use it thinking of privacy and anonymity. If things really go south, its ideal use is on a vehicle, each time from a different place.

Trust no one.

Against the resources of a nation state, you are no match.

Don't fool yourself.

If they target you specifically, sure. One can play the odds of being in the 99% and staying under the radar.

Consider Google targets everyone everywhere at all times. Because it is easier.

The Stasi did the same thing analog fifty years ago. For the same reason.

There is no evidence in favor of presuming anything online is anonymous or private. Eve owns the wire. The US DoD created TOR. Patriotism is stronger motivation than individual interest in privacy.

Not downvoting you, since this is a common sentiment. But how is this comment helpful? OP has asked for help defending themselves and you've offered "Surrender".

It’s quite helpful, if their only concern is to survive then the only real recommendation is to bunker down and keep your head down.

Tor is great if you are in the US or Germany but in many places simply having it installed can land you in jail, having guides published by the US government and other organizations is also nice in theory but in practice this would again land you in hot water due to possession of subversive materials or w/e excuse the government or the group(s) in power would use.

If their goals are different than just survival than they need to know that they assume a high risk, not only in the times prior and during a revolution but quite often after it since the multitude of groups that tend to fight in a revolution end up fighting amongst themselves for control once the main regime is overcome.

It’s easy for people that lived all their life in a country that has a rule of law and that despite what Twitter would tell you actually respects human rights and civil liberties to give advice, unfortunately that advice can often get you arrested or even killed in the real world.

No, it wasn't helpful, because it didn't even give that recommendation.

No. This is not useful advice. OP please disregard this post. Tor is actually useful internationally.

Their goal is pretty clearly stated in the original post. Please don't post contrarian trash like this

When the business end of a Hellfire is pointing your way it doesn’t matter whether or not there’s hollow point in your Glock. Brandishing it is not of advantage.

Likewise posting to HN is shit for operational security. It’s googleable 4fks sake.

Security theater is silly if the threat is serious. If it’s not serious then it’s not serious.

Try to shift your income to something extremely apolitical.

If you are a programmer, go work for a company that makes billing software or manufactures pottery. If you aren’t, go be a chef, accountant, or taxi driver. Anything that doesn’t require you to share your opinions on sociopolitical issues.

Get a VPS in America or Europe. Install OpenVPN and have it listen on port 80 or 443. Your VPN isn't on a blacklist, of known VPNs, so you're golden. Source: used my own VPN in Islamic dictatorships before.

You can simply prepare yourself by not doing anything online. Including asking. If they are looking for an excuse, don't stick out.

Get a protonvpn account and protonmail address. Make a linux desktop VM without credentials and keep that safe. When you wan to search for something make a copy, and nuke it afterwards. Obviously a live cd would work too.

If you need to secure files use the proton drive beta for example.

The proton suite of tools is actually quite good and better then DIY or several cheap as dirt providers.

There is no need to spend money on this. You can get an iCloud email for free and iCloud storage for very little. I doubt if Tunisian government can do anything to cough up credentials from Apple.

Burner phone(s)? (cheap, throwaway, prepaid in cash)

Also, this guide is a good starting point. [0]


Disclaimer: I know nothing about Tunisia.

If we believe your assessment that you're not worried about your physical safety, there's little you should worry about your "online" safety. Realistically, a government can't go Big Brother online while people enjoy their freedom in the real world - how would that work?

The one thing I can think of is if you frequently write opinions that the majority of Tunisians disagree with - it doesn't matter whether they're pro- or anti-government, if things get heated, people will search for targets to fix their rage on. People, people can be the worst. So try not to post too many incendiary opinions and keep them far from your real identity.

Also (it should be obvious to you by now, but) don't put too much weight on the opinions of people who can't spell your ruling party's name. (Yes, that includes this comment!) If I had a dime every time someone said "Get out of South Korea ASAP because there's going to be a war!" ...

If the government really wants you it can always do so or purchase services to do so. The safest thing is to stay low. If you were told to "please slow down", you might as well already been monitored somehow by the government.

Get out of the capital city.

Not sure if you are familiar with Tunisia but this is particularly very sound advice. I got out of the capital a few months ago because where my family lives is kind of tribal. I used to live alone in some neighborhood and although it is nice, nobody really knows anybody.

Of course, it could be the case that the OP already lives near his family or maybe doesn't have one. In which case, it might help but only a little.

It would be true almost anywhere.

If things went crazy in the US, Washington DC would be dangerous, even from the viewpoint of getting caught in the crossfire.

In France, Paris would be dangerous but some little town will probably miss the action.

This is much more the case in a developing country where geographical inequality is even worse and you are more likely to have family in the country.

I'm not really worried about my physical safety; there's no way this can devolve into a full on war; I just need to protect my online privacy.

Also, we're in the middle of pandemic lock-down and leaving is not an option.

>there's no way this can devolve into a full on war

I know nothing of your particular situation, but I bet there is usually a long chain of impossibilities that occur when things really start to go bad:

  - There's no way this virus will keep economies crippled and shortages going for more than a year.
  - There's no way for a coup to happen
  - There's no way for this to devolve into war
  - There's no way they'd start arresting journalists 
  - There's no way they'd suspend elections
  - There's no way the police will start shooting protestors
  - There's no way the army will start rounding up people
  - There's no way the protests will start occurring in my town
  - There's no way that the violence will come to my town
  - There's no way that my neighbors will turn me in
  - There's no way that the outside world will turn a blind eye to the atrocities
No doubt it is still a really low probability of really bad things happening. But 1% is not never. Thinking that something could happen is one step to ensuring that it doesn't actually happen. Stay safe.

Prepare to leave, even if it is not an 'option' right now. Make relationships with people smugglers today, not when you need it. Research which countries would accept you as a political refugee, which in your case is pretty clear cut as a journalist and what would be the best process. Don't only choose one country as part of your research, have a list in case one or more fall through. You will probably have to live in an easy to move to neutral country such as indonesia or the phillipines first while you apply.

You might have to leave fast, so create a 'leave the country' go away backpack (aka go bag) and bring it with you everywhere, in case you can't actually go home. Install online cameras to see the state of your house before getting close to it in case you are raided or setup for an ambush. Turn off the cell phone when your close to where you live by a few km, use wifi where all your internet connection is piped through a VPN. Be prepared to abandon everything in your house if it comes to that, maybe distribute your important sentimental objects elsewhere with trusted friends or family or other secret storage spots. When you begin to stash such things, turn off all electronic devices with radios (wifi, bluetooth, cellphone, etc) or just do not bring them going there and coming back. Use cash for in person transactions from now on, maybe change your habits up.

You may not be worried about general physical safety, but you might be targeted specifically.

Michael Bazzel's book is pretty good if you want to further go down the rabbit hole: https://inteltechniques.com/book7.html . It is US focused, but many of the principles still apply.

> I'm not really worried about my physical safety

You should.

> there's no way this can devolve into a full on war

Ghannouchi might be bluffing but no one really knows for sure. This can devolve into a full on war, although it'll unlikely touch the coastal cities.

> I just need to protect my online privacy

You don't really need to do much unless you are looking to do full-on work on activist journalism. Dictatorships only target the most famous or those who make a lot of noise. It's very hard to follow everyone, and Tunisia kind of lacks in the tech department.

> Also, we're in the middle of pandemic lock-down and leaving is not an option.

Most Embassies have re-opened. It is harder, granted; and if you are young it is hard to get the vaccine.

> Edit: I'm not worried about my physical safety, I'm just asking about protecting my privacy online if the government decides to go full on Big Brother.

What makes you think it hasn't already?

This comment isn't terribly useful. If you were aiming for useful and not just cynical, you might add something about why you think they may have done so already, or what he should do differently if they had.

My point is that regardless of the country, one must assume that it has already gone "Full Big Brother." Any country that has done so is unlikely to make an announcement. Both motive and opportunity already exist.

So insightful thank you!

As someone from a neighboring country who witnessed at least 2 such episodes, I advise to just relax it's not that serious at the moment :)

buy & store basic needs as much as possible

That I already do on a regular basis;

You need to make plans to leave the country in an orderly way so you can move somewhere safe with job opportunities.

There is no privacy if you are a target (even offline). Delete all data, format your disks, delete every trace.

Why on earth are you asking HN readers for advice rather than your own countrymen and your friends!?

Because most of them are happy with the new dude? It's careful not to counter the crowd now.

Because he's fishing for dissidents

Political asylum in a foreign country until the unrest works itself out.

There’s no privacy online

Get outta there

> I tried to submit this question with a throwaway account, for obvious reasons, was told to "please slow down".

The algo is very aggressive in preventing you from posting too frequently... happens to me all the time (probably because the admins are required to review all comments and posts)

Get some hats and prepare to celebrate

For a moment, I was expecting a different country...not to worry, we'll get it back.

Have you considered, as an able bodied young man, to do your part for the future of your country?

What are you implying is this persons part for the future of their country?

Should you need to flee the country, you'll need access to money. You could deposit money into cryptocurrency 'stable coins', which are generally backed 1:1 by other currencies. The stablecoin called USDC would work for this purpose: backed 1:1 by the US Dollar. That way you will have access to money from any country.

Berkeley has a report "An Evaluation of Online Security Guides for Journalists" which may prove helpful here: https://cltc.berkeley.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Online_... .

I also remember University of Toronto had software tools to help journalists and political dissidents communicate securely online, however I don't have links at the moment.

You probably want to purchase multiple VPN services, from smaller providers, as the bigger ones will likely be blocked entirely. You also want to limit ad tracking as much as possible.

Your phone will likely leak your location and provide excellent means for tracking you. I am not an expert on this subject. Use an iphone, update to the latest ios, limit ad tracking in the settings, and disable background app communication (cut off internet access for most apps entirely). Use a VPN on your phone. See this article for an idea of how pervasive the tracking might be: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/12/19/opinion/locat...

How does converting a stablecoin to cash work when you are in an unfamiliar country and don't have a local bank account?

I assume cryptocurrency exchanges won't mail you a wad of cash. Maybe they'd mail you a check, though, that you could cash at a local bank? Though many banks will not take checks unless you have an account with them. And the local check-cashing places will take a cut of the proceeds (though that might be acceptable given the situation). Even if that does work, you might be stuck without money for days or more while the check gets to you. Hopefully whatever you managed to bring with you will hold you for that long.

Let's say you're fleeing Tunisia with a liquid net worth of over $10k.

You want some money in cash, certainly. But crossing borders with over $10k is a legal problem. You're also liable to be robbed. It would make sense to convert most of your money to USDC.

If you end up anywhere in Europe, and probably many places in the world, you can find cryptocurrency ATM machines where you can withdraw your crypto without identification for nominal fees. As others have pointed out, there are cryptocurrency debit/atm cards via services that require formal registration (ie, they obey KYC laws). There are services you can transfer crypto to through circuitous routes that will dump currency in a bank account you specify -- you'd have to dig to figure that path out as it is not quite legal. And you can always barter with humans directly -- which shouldn't be too difficult. You'll have to do some creative thinking...

Stablecoins are ideal for this situation. How else would you move $50k when you're illegally ("undocumented") crossing borders, your government is corrupt, and your banks have shut down?

Well, depending on just exactly where you are, if you have access to any way of using credit card to pay for what you need, or a way to turn a credit card balance into cash, you should be fine with one of several card style options from Binance or Crypto.com (is swipe SXP(?) one?) and USDC (the singular most unbreakable 1:1 physically backed USD equivalent in crypto) in your balance.

However in do keep in mind, especially when running from bad things (like a dictatorship) - absolutely nothing some cold hard money on hand for fares/bribes of whatever kind.

That said, if you were going to go with a exchanges physical card option, you would want to order that... like, now.

Also, if you are a singular person without a family... I would be looking to get on a smuggler/refugee boat towards Italy or something. If you're stuck in the country for family or whatever other reasons, I wish you the best, try to have some supplies in backpacks to run into the jungles/slums if shit starts to hit the fan.

Hold stablecoins if you don't want the volatility, but when you want to sell some, turn them to BTC and to sell on localbitcoins.

Localbitcoins does not let you arrange f2f or online meetings anymore without KYC. You have to pass KYC/AML to sign up.

Really?! Last time I used it was 2015. What about the Mycelium Wallet?

Non-VOIP non-prepaid phone required, and ID is optional but required for ... well, really, anything more than a single small amount trade. You can't get contact info or contact an advertisement otherwise.

I also get "Unfortunately we are not serving customers located in your current location." from a California IP so it's really funny considering it's supposed to be nothing more than a craigslist for BTC ads.

How to stay anonymous online is an interesting problem.

Guides may recommend privacy plugins for chrome: uBlock Origin, Privacy Badger, Decentraleyes, PixelBlock, etc... However, these plugins may also make your browser easier to fingerprint.

Technology for browser fingerprinting and linking your identity across devices is probably quite sophisticated. Perversely, there's a guy ordering lunch right now, in San Francisco or New York City, who wrote the code to track you. The bill for the meal over Uber Eats tallied to $45, delivered to his multi million dollar condo. He read your headline and decided to stay silent. Good luck!

I would set up vpn service on a datacenter provider like aws or digital ocean. That way blocking you means blocking the internet effectively. If they block one protocol you can also switch it up more quickly. Your threat model is tunsia, not the us govt or anti piracy detection, which is where datacenter vpn falls short.

UT's group is Citizenlab, https://citizenlab.ca/

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