Shocking! Indian Engineers Introduce Electric ‘Anti-Rape’ Underwear
by Isabel Wilkinson Apr 3, 2013 5:05 PM EDT
Fed up with a culture of sexual harassment, three students in India are building undergarments to help women fend off attackers by delivering electric shocks.
India’s recent brutal rapes have inspired a new invention.
Three engineering students in India have developed “anti-rape” lingerie, which they claim will help women fend off unwanted sexual advances.
The garments—named Society Harnessing Equipment (SHE)—have been wired with pressure sensors and equipped with an “electric-shock circuit board,” which delivers up to 82 electric shocks when the garments detect unwanted force. Using a GPS system, the undergarments can also apparently send an alert to parents or police.
As the students described the project, the inside of the garments are insulated with polymer—with a circuit placed near the bosom, “because in the attempt of rape or roadside eve-teasing, as per survey, women are attacked first on their bosom.” (Eve-teasing is an Indian euphemism for harassment.)
One of its creators, Manisha Mohan, an engineering student at SRM University in Chennai, told The Times of India: “A person trying to molest a girl will get the shock of his life the moment pressure sensors get activated, and the GPS and GSM modules would send an SMS [to the Indian emergency number] as well as to parents of the girl.”
According to The Times of India, Mohan says she is working on finding a fabric that will allow for the garment to be washed and that they are planning to begin “commercial rollout” this month. It’s still unclear how the garments will be able to differentiate between unwanted and wanted sexual advances—or if they will be smart enough never to shock the woman who is wearing them. Because of the complexity of the engineering, it’s also unclear how accessible the product could ever be.
A website for the project reveals what looks like what looks like a white nightgown with wiring between the breasts. Mohan cited India’s recent Delhi and Bangalore rape tragedies as inspirations for the development of the product.
“The lawmakers take ages to come up with just laws and even after that, women are unsafe,” the students wrote on their website. “Hence, we have initiated the idea of self‐defense which protects he women from domestic, social and workplace harassment.”
The Death of Aaron Swartz and the New Hacker Crackdown
In 1992, the sci-fi writer Bruce Sterling published The Hacker Crackdown, a riveting nonfiction book about a string of high-profile hacker busts on the early “electronic frontier” of the late ’80s and early ’90s. The first hacker crackdown shook the early internet to its core and helped mobilize political geeks. Today, we’re in the midst of a new crackdown. And with the death this weekend of the legally and emotionally troubled 26-year-old computer genius Aaron Swartz, this one has a body count.
Before he hanged himself in his Brooklyn home on Friday, Swartz faced as many as 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines for allegedly bypassing the network security of MIT and online academic journal archive JSTOR to illegally download millions of academic articles. Prosecutors alleged that Swartz, a long-time freedom of information advocate, had hoped to release the articles for free online.
Swartz’s parents have publicly blamed the federal prosecutors pursuing his case for contributing to his death. “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach,” the family said in a statement. “The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims.”
Though the JSTOR stunt has become his most known, Swartz was the brains behind too many projects to count: He helped develop RSS, was one of the original programmers behind Reddit, and founded DemandProgress—a non-profit that fought for internet freedom and helped defeat the terrible online piracy bill SOPA last year. But Swartz was an activist, not an entrepreneur. “Aaron had literally done nothing in his life ‘to make money,'” wrote his friend Lawrence Lessig. Propelling most of his activism was the belief that knowledge is power, and that spreading knowledge as widely as possible could help bring about a more equal and just world.
In 2008 Swartz penned the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, which called for activists to “liberate” information locked up by corporations or publishers. “It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral —it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.”
If, as prosecutors allege, Swartz hacked into MIT and JSTOR’s network to “liberate” the journal articles, then he was one of a growing number of hacktivists—those who hack for a cause, not for money or mischief. The causes hacktivists fight for are often noble, even if their tactics are questionable. Freedom of information is a principle anyone who has enjoyed the benefits of the internet age should stand for, and Swartz’s pure belief in the power of knowledge was why the entire internet seemed to mourn when news of his death broke. It’s why academics have been uploading PDFs of their papers to Twitter in tribute to Swartz, why Anonymous hacked MIT’s website and why a White House petition to remove U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, head of the office that prosecuted Swartz, has already garnered more than 12,000 signatures.
But for all the public admiration, Swart’s motivation didn’t help him when it came to his hacking case. In fact, it probably put him more squarely in the prosecutorial crosshairs: People like Swartz are the key targets in the new Hacker Crackdown. Each arrest and conviction is not just a crime punished, but an example set. Each successful prosecution another volley by the U.S. government in the increasingly heated political battle between two ideas of the internet: The cybercop’s ideal of an orderly world where corporations and their customers can safely conduct business, and the free-wheeling but risky information paradise of geek idealists like Swartz.
So it is that people like 22-year-old college student Mercedes Haefer has had her life turned upside down over her alleged role in a December, 2010 distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) on PayPal. Members of the hacktivist collective Anonymous, angry that Paypal shut off donations to Wikileaks, attempted to overload Paypal’s servers with traffic and take its website down temporarily. This tactic causes no lasting damage and is the online equivalent of trespassing during a sit-in, but Haefer and thirteen other coconspirators face 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
“We want to send a message that chaos on the internet is unacceptable,” the deputy head of the FBI’s cyber division said last year after the PayPal hacktivists were arrested. “The Internet has become so important to so many people that we have to ensure that the World Wide Web does not become the Wild Wild West.” So it is that iPad hacker Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer is headed to prison for harvesting customer data that AT&T accidentally made public themselves, then disclosing it to the press to prove a point about their lax security.
The zeal with which Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann of Massachusetts pursued the case against Swartz suggests he was keen on sending a message as well. Heymann refused any plea deal that did not include Swartz pleading guilty to all of the 13 counts against him and a prison term, according to the Wall Street Journal. This despite the fact that JSTOR, the only party which could have been substantially harmed by Swartz’s stunt, declined to pursue charges after he returned the journal articles.
The vindictive nature of Swartz’s persecution, more than the charges themselves, is what spurred such anger among former friends and colleagues. The U.S. Attorney’s office wanted to drive home its intolerance of law-breaking dissent online by breaking Swartz. “It was a threat that had nothing to do with justice and everything to do with a broader battle over systemic power,” wrote the internet sociologist danah boyd, a friend of Swartz’s, in an angry blog post. She continued:
In recent years, hackers have challenged the status quo and called into question the legitimacy of countless political actions. Their means may have been questionable, but their intentions have been valiant. The whole point of a functioning democracy is to always question the uses and abuses of power in order to prevent tyranny from emerging. Over the last few years, we’ve seen hackers demonized as anti-democratic even though so many of them see themselves as contemporary freedom fighters. And those in power used Aaron, reframing his information liberation project as a story of vicious hackers whose terroristic acts are meant to destroy democracy.
The first crackdown described more than two decades ago by Sterling seems relatively quaint compared to what’s going on today. Its focus was on a loosely connected group of underground hackers who infiltrated phone companies’ networks and stole confidential documents about their systems, to publish in hacker journals Phrack, or simply keep on their hard drive like artifacts of illicit knowledge. These hackers were driven by curiosity, not politics.
But even this invoked a fearsomely paranoid response from the Secret Service at the time. In one particularly bizarre incident, overzealous agents raided the offices of a role-playing games publisher named Steve Jackson in pursuit of a hacker who had obtained a document about the 911 system. Jackson’s company had recently published a hacking-themed game called Cyberpunk, and the Secret Service confiscated Jackson’s computers for months, convinced the game’s instruction booklet was a real-world “manual for computer crime.” It wasn’t the last embarrassment for law enforcement, who, as Sterling paints it, were at times comically out of their comfort zones as they chased their prey.
Hackers and law enforcement alike were burned by the first hacker crackdown, but something positive came of it nonetheless. The unjust raids, show trials, and public demonizing of hackers brought about the formation of a political vanguard for the internet age: The Electronic Freedom Foundation, an indispensable civil liberties organization, sprung from the ashes of the first crackdown and today tirelessly advocates for the rights of internet users, even those who might have incurred the wrath of the Feds. And the cyber cops began to get better, learning more about how to investigate computer crimes without causing collateral damage.
In fact Sterling ends The Hacker Crackdown on a hopeful note, with a description of “Computers, Freedom and Privacy,” a 1990 meeting of the burgeoning “cyber libertarian” community, where cybercops, activists, underground hackers and came together in a sort of unlikely truce. “It is a community,” Sterling wrote. “Something like Lebanon perhaps, but a digital nation. People who had feuded all year in the national press, people who entertained the deepest suspicions of one another’s motives and ethics, are now in each others’ laps.”
Aaron Swartz’s death, and the countless lives upended in recent years by hacktivist-hunting authorities, show how fleeting that moment was. But there are new calls for civility on both sides of the fight. danah boyd writes that internet activists “need to look for an approach to change-making that doesn’t result in brilliant people being held up as examples so that they can be tormented by power.” Lawrence Lessig has a message for those who do the tormenting: “Somehow, we need to get beyond the ‘I’m right so I’m right to nuke you’ ethics that dominates our time. That begins with one word: Shame.”
The outpouring of grief and rage over Aaron Swartz can be boiled down to one tragic realization: That no matter how important the fight over the internet is, it’s not worth even one brilliant young man’s life.
Reddit founder Aaron Swartz dead at 26
INTERNET prodigy Aaron Swartz, the co-founder of the social news website Reddit and an activist who fought to make online content free to the public, has been found dead.
Swartz, 26, committed suicide in his Brooklyn apartment weeks before he was to go on trial on accusations that he stole millions of journal articles from an electronic archive in an attempt to make them freely available.
If convicted, he faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.
He was pronounced dead on Friday evening at his home in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighbourhood, said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for New York’s chief medical examiner.
Police went to the apartment after receiving an emergency services call from Swartz’s girlfriend, who found him.
“Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable – these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter,” Swartz’s family said in a statement.
“We’re grateful for our time with him, to those who loved him and stood with him, and to all of those who continue his work for a better world.”
Swartz was a prodigy who as a young teenager helped create RSS, a family of web feed formats used to gather updates from blogs, news headlines, audio and video for users.
He co-founded Reddit, which was later sold to Conde Nast, and directed the political action group Demand Progress that campaigns against Internet censorship.
In the past, he had hinted at a battle with depression, the Daily Mail said.
In 2011, he was arrested in Boston and charged with stealing millions of scientific journals from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Swartz pleaded not guilty. His federal trial on computer fraud charges was to begin next month. If convicted, he could have faced decades in prison and a fortune in fines.
News of Swartz’s tragic death prompted an outpouring of grief from friends and supporters.
Swartz was “an extraordinary hacker and activist,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an international non-profit digital rights group based in California wrote in a tribute on its home page.
He “did more than almost anyone to make the Internet a thriving ecosystem for open knowledge, and to keep it that way,” the tribute said.
Among internet gurus, Swartz was considered a pioneer of efforts to make online information freely available.
“Playing Mozart’s Requiem in honour of a brave and brilliant man,” tweeted Carl Malamud, an internet public domain advocate who believes in free access to legally obtained files.
Swartz aided Malamud’s own effort to post federal court documents for free online, rather than the few cents per page that the US Government charges through its electronic archive, PACER.
In 2008, The New York Times reported, Swartz wrote a program to legally download the files using free access via public libraries.
About 20 per cent of all the court papers were made available until the government shut down the library access.
The FBI investigated but did not charge Swartz, he wrote on his own website.
Three years later, Swartz was arrested in Boston and charged with stealing millions of articles from a computer archive at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Prosecutors said he broke into a computer wiring closet on campus and used his laptop for the downloads.
Experts puzzled over the arrest and argued that the result of the actions Swartz was accused of was the same as his PACER program: more information publicly available.
The prosecution “makes no sense,” Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal said in a statement at the time. “It’s like trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library.”
Swartz pleaded not guilty to charges including wire fraud. His federal trial was to begin next month.
According to a federal indictment, Swartz stole the documents from JSTOR, a subscription service used by MIT that offers digitized copies of articles from academic journals. Prosecutors said he intended to distribute the articles on file-sharing websites.
He faced 13 felony charges, including breaching site terms and intending to share downloaded files through peer-to-peer networks, computer fraud, wire fraud, obtaining information from a protected computer, and criminal forfeiture.
JSTOR did not press charges once it reclaimed the articles from Swartz, and some legal experts considered the case unfounded, saying that MIT allows guests access to the articles and Swartz, a fellow at Harvard’s Safra Centre for Ethics, was a guest.
Criticising the government’s actions in the pending prosecution, Harvard law professor and Safra Center faculty director Lawrence Lessig called himself a friend of Swartz’s and wrote Saturday that “we need a better sense of justice. … The question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a felon.”
JSTOR announced this week that it would make “more than 4.5 million articles” publicly available for free.
Swartz’s family blamed prosecutors for his suicide.
“Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy,” the family statement said. “It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.
Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death.”