Friday, February 10, 2012

Iran blocking major websites; HTTPS

From TechWeek Europe:

Iran has reportedly begun blocking sites using the HTTPS secure protocol, effectively censoring major bank sites, Google, Gmail, Facebook and many other commercial sites.

According to reports from Kabir News and The Washington Post, Internet providers in Iran began censoring the sites on Thursday, leaving behind a page which says: “According to computer crime regulations, access to this web site is denied”.

Kabir News states that the government will likely continue blocking access until Esfand, the next month in the Persian calendar, and the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

A more sinister suggestion about the downtime is that it could signal the introduction of Iran’s ‘National Internet’.

“The government’s technology officials have announced the construction of a domestic Internet network comparable to an office intranet, which would block many popular sites,” wrote Thomas Erdbrink, The Washington Post’s correspondent in Iran.

“Officials stress that there will still be access to the Web — just not to the “damaging” sites. But Iranian Internet users and activists fear that the activation of the National Internet will cut them off from the rest of the world, and put them under increased surveillance by authorities,” he wrote

Censorship has long been an issue in the country, but for a long time savvy users have been using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bypass barriers guarded by Iran’s cyberpolice. The Post is reporting that even these means have become unviable due to extremely low speeds.
WaPo adds:
Whenever Maysam, a prominent Iranian blogger, connects to the Internet from his office in the bazaar, he switches on a special connection that for years would bypass the Islamic republic’s increasingly effective firewall.

But recently the software, which allowed him and millions of other Iranians to go online through portals elsewhere in the world, stopped working. When it sporadically returns, speeds are so excruciatingly slow that sites such as Facebook and Balatarin.com – which evaluates unofficial news and rumors in Farsi — become unusable.

“There has been a change,” said Maysam, who spoke on the condition his last name not to be used out of fear of being summoned by Iran’s cyber police. “It seems that the authorities are increasingly getting the upper hand online.”

Having seen social media help power uprisings across the Middle East, Iran’s leaders are trying to get control over what is uploaded, posted and discussed on the Internet. And after a slow start, authorities are becoming more and more successful, Iranian Internet users say.

(h/t CHA)