A group of hackers known as Telecomix has been a friend to Syrian activists in recent months, revealing how much the Syrian government is watching its citizens and helping people escape surveillance from the oppressive regime. A Forbes profile of Telecomix details the group's beginnings, its massive attempt to hack into the Syrian government's systems and see what it was tracking, and its efforts to help insurgents circumvent the government's blocks.
Telecomix hackers found that some of the technology used to snoop on Syrians was made by an American company called Blue Coat Systems, which provides tools to a huge number of American companies that let them block inappropriate content and track employee behavior. After Telecomix posted 54GB of data detailing how Blue Coat devices were used to track people's communications and browsing activities by their IP address, the company admitted its involvement, which it says was unwitting. After an internal investigation, Blue Coat released a statement last week saying its systems were purchased by customers in the United Arab Emirates and then illegally shipped to Syria. The US Department of Commerce has added those customers to the BIS Entity List, imposing far stricter requirements for exporting goods to them in the future, and Blue Coat promised to continue to hunt down illegal and unethical uses of its devices. Meanwhile, Telecomix has fashioned itself as a watchdog against Western companies helping foreign governments oppress their people, and making those people aware of exactly what they're up against.