Hanging With Hackers At Germany's Annual Gathering Of the 'Geeks'

The Chaos Computer Club is hosting a summer camp for 3,000 hackers from around the world in Brandenburg, formerly in East Germany. Participants talk, try stuff out on their computers and party. They’re also planning an ambitious project: a trip into outer

A Chaos Communication Camp participant in 2007
A Chaos Communication Camp participant in 2007
Frederik Obermaier

BRANDENBURG Kristian's NXP ARM Cortex-M3 processor isn't doing what he wants it to. "The mesh isn't working right," says the 29-year-old Norwegian.

A small rocket with tiny bright lights, wires and a display hangs around his neck. But it's not connecting with his friends' rockets, and his friends are sitting right there. No mesh means no communication, at least no digital communication -- and that, in the largest hackers' camp on the planet, is a real problem.

The geeks are tightly packed together in the "hacking center" -- a hangar in this Brandenburg no-man's land. In front of them are their laptops, with the other, digital world, on the screens. Many of these folks return only reluctantly to the real world.

For the non-initiated, a visit to Finowfurt, the former Soviet airfield, where over 3,000 hackers have been camping at the Chaos Communication Camp since last Wednesday, is a diverting sight indeed.

The many men and few women camping near the cracked tarmac are for some -- and were, even before Wikileaks' revelations -- modern-day Robin Hoods, the last defenders of citizen rights, fighters against a capitalist world. To some companies and governments, however, they are criminals. Ordinary folk may write them off simply as computer nerds.

In and among old Soviet fighter planes and wrecked tanks they've pitched their tents and pavilions connected with kilometers of electric and fiber glass cabling. Little lights blink on and off, there are sounds of beeps and keyboards clacking as participants work on their laptops.

The organizer of the event is the Chaos Computer Club, and at the entrance members of Germany's oldest hacker organization hand out small communication rockets that participants suspend around their necks. The theme of the camp this year is, after all, "Hackers in Space."

How the computer freaks are going to get into space is being explained by a man in his late twenties, leading a session on "solid rocket engines' in Hangar 1. The audience is listening raptly to considerations about preferred propellants, black powder, a zinc and sulfur mix, perhaps, or hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane.

In one of the last rows sits a man who looks a little like the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. His orange shorts are stretched tight across his rear end and don't cover it entirely. His thinning hair is combed over and tied in a pony tail. He says he finds the talk "visionary and important." No way can space travel be left in the hands of private companies and "business politicians' whose only interest is profit. "Profit is just a symptom of power" -- and it should be shared, if not voluntarily then taken by force.

The man who looks like the Comic Book Guy speaks with much enthusiasm about the attacks of the hacker group Anonymous on private sector and government computers worldwide, saying that "the revolutionary drive of young people is now being used the way it was under Mao during the Cultural Revolution."

However, he doesn't want his sympathies for such actions splashed all over the papers. "At the end of the day, it's illegal," he says. He himself is an honest IT salesman, the man is careful to point out. Like pretty much everybody here, he doesn't want to give his name and won't even say where he's from or where he lives. "If I give you that information you might be able to identify me," he says, adding that there are a lot of secret service guys among the participants at the camp and it was now time for him to cut the interview short.

Frank Rieger on the other hand -- the Chaos Computer Club spokesman -- has been answering journalists' questions for days. "I see hacking as a way of making technology one's own," he says. Only somebody who doesn't understand the true nature of hacking would claim it is the same as cyber crime. It's about experimentation, "a creative way of dealing with technology," he says. And to make that fully possible here, a separate phone network was set up for the camp -- getting too creative with the public network could very quickly lead to criminal charges.

Read the original article in German

Photo - gurke

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!