Saturday

Iranian Internet - The Noose Tightens



The 11th of February is a special day for Iranians, it marks the day when the revolution overthrew the last of the country's monarchy. It is the day they celebrate the establishment of an Islamic Republic, however it's not the celebration that the regime are concerned about. The day is often used for protests against the despotic Government who currently run Iran.

Like all unpopular and brutal regimes they are concerned the way the internet allows people to coordinate protests. Unfortunately like China, Iran has the technical resources to control and block access to the web. Many of us think that the end game for these countries will be a national intranet with the country effectively cut off from the rest of internet. It is the only way they can guarantee control of what the population sees and says online.

But for the moment that hasn't quite happened but it's getting closer.  Here's what many Iranian users are seeing when they attempt to access Facebook, Gmail and hundreds of other secure sites.


Now normally for lots of people this wouldn't normally be a problem.  Most Iranian web users are well used to online oppression as well as real life and are skilled in the use of proxies, VPNs and other related anonymity services like Tor.   However we are hearing a variety of reports currently (11 Nov 2012) that wholesale blocks of secure sites are taking place - which make using these tools difficult.  It's not just simple tactics to restrict access to Facebook.

However there are worrying signs that there is an increasing sophistication to the filtering technologies being used.  China has been using Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) for some time, recently developing a system that can actually analyse and block assess to Tor for example.  It looks like Iran is going down the same route, there is evidence of  Packet Inspection here - detecting when SSL handshakes take place then selective blocking of IP addresses and ports related to these.

This packet inspection is by far the most worrying development from a technical level.  If the Iranian regime really have installed a National capability of looking inside a packet to detect not only the SSL handshake but also comparing against specific signatures of anonymity networks like Tor - this is going to make communication much more difficult and dangerous.  It means that the Iranian regime can specify which specific secure sites can be used.  So they could allow sites like banks and Government sites whilst blocking anonymity and social networking sites for example. 

The Iranian user could find the internet getting smaller every day for them - already accessing thousands of sites are redirected to the regimes preferred web site - Peyvandha which was created in 2010.


I don't speak Persian but I'm guessing it won't be quite as fun as Facebook.  You should also be very careful what you say!  The site consists of the Governments recommended links and suggested web sites and is currently one of the most visited sites in Iran (although mainly because so many users are redirected here!).

Anyway the reports are mixed at the moment, one minute the selective blocking, the next wholesale restriction on all secure sites.  It is unsure whether this will just happen over the revolution celebrations to stifle protests - although most fear the worse for the long term in Iran.



0 comments: