[IRP] Fwd: WSJ: Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology

Robin Gross robin
Mon Jun 22 09:25:36 EEST 2009


Begin forwarded message:

> From: Thiru Balasubramaniam <thiru at keionline.org>
> Date: June 21, 2009 11:11:40 PM PDT
> To: Vera Franz <vfranz at osf-eu.org>, Robin Gross  
> <robin at ipjustice.org>, James Love <james.love at keionline.org>, Manon  
> Ress <manon.ress at keionline.org>, Brad Biddle  
> <brad.biddle at intel.com>, Nick Ashton-Hart <nashton at consensus.pro>,  
> Sachiko Muto <sachiko.muto at gmail.com>, Malini Aisola  
> <malini.aisola at keionline.org>, Rishab Ghosh  
> <rishab.ghosh at gmail.com>, Daniel Dardailler <danield at w3.org>
> Subject: WSJ: Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology
>  * The Wall Street Journal
>    * JUNE 22, 2009
> Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology
> The Iranian regime has developed, with the assistance of European  
> telecommunications companies, one of the world's most sophisticated  
> mechanisms for controlling and censoring the Internet, allowing it  
> to examine the content of individual online communications on a  
> massive scale.
> Interviews with technology experts in Iran and outside the country  
> say Iranian efforts at monitoring Internet information go well  
> beyond blocking access to Web sites or severing Internet connections.
> View Full Image
> Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology
> AFP/Getty Images
> An undated screen grab from an Internet video shows a young woman  
> identified only as Neda, who has become an iconic image of the  
> violence during Iranian protests over the nation's disputed  
> presidential election. Because of reporting restrictions in Tehran,  
> the incident could not be independently verified.
> Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology
> Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology
> Instead, in confronting the political turmoil that has consumed the  
> country this past week, the Iranian government appears to be  
> engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which  
> enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor  
> it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for  
> disinformation purposes, according to these experts.
> The monitoring capability was provided, at least in part, by a  
> joint venture of Siemens AG, the German conglomerate, and Nokia  
> Corp., the Finnish cellphone company, in the second half of 2008,  
> Ben Roome, a spokesman for the joint venture, confirmed.
> The "monitoring center," installed within the government's telecom  
> monopoly, was part of a larger contract with Iran that included  
> mobile-phone networking technology, Mr. Roome said.
> "If you sell networks, you also, intrinsically, sell the capability  
> to intercept any communication that runs over them," said Mr. Roome.
> The sale of the equipment to Iran by the joint venture, called  
> Nokia Siemens Networks, was previously reported last year by the  
> editor of an Austrian information-technology Web site called  
> Futurezone.
> The Iranian government had experimented with the equipment for  
> brief periods in recent months, but it had not been used  
> extensively, and therefore its capabilities weren't fully displayed  
> -- until during the recent unrest, the Internet experts interviewed  
> said.
> "We didn't know they could do this much," said a network engineer  
> in Tehran. "Now we know they have powerful things that allow them  
> to do very complex tracking on the network."
> [Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology]
> Deep packet inspection involves inserting equipment into a flow of  
> online data, from emails and Internet phone calls to images and  
> messages on social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.  
> Every digitized packet of online data is deconstructed, examined  
> for keywords and reconstructed within milliseconds. In Iran's case,  
> this is done for the entire country at a single choke point,  
> according to networking engineers familiar with the country's  
> system. It couldn't be determined whether the equipment from Nokia  
> Siemens Networks is used specifically for deep packet inspection.
> All eyes have been on the Internet amid the crisis in Iran, and  
> government attempts to crack down on information. The infiltration  
> of Iranian online traffic could explain why the government has  
> allowed the Internet to continue to function -- and also why it has  
> been running at such slow speeds in the days since the results of  
> the presidential vote spurred unrest.
> Users in the country report the Internet having slowed to less than  
> a tenth of normal speeds. Deep packet inspection delays the  
> transmission of online data unless it is offset by a huge increase  
> in processing power, according to Internet experts.
> Iran is "now drilling into what the population is trying to say,"  
> said Bradley Anstis, director of technical strategy with Marshal8e6  
> Inc., an Internet security company in Orange, Calif. He and other  
> experts interviewed have examined Internet traffic flows in and out  
> of Iran that show characteristics of content inspection, among  
> other measures. "This looks like a step beyond what any other  
> country is doing, including China."
> China's vaunted "Great Firewall," which is widely considered the  
> most advanced and extensive Internet censoring in the world, is  
> believed also to involve deep packet inspection. But China appears  
> to be developing this capability in a more decentralized manner, at  
> the level of its Internet service providers rather than through a  
> single hub, according to experts. That suggests its implementation  
> might not be as uniform as that in Iran, they said, as the  
> arrangement depends on the cooperation of all the service providers.
> Related Video
> Iran's government is a combination of democracy and Islamic  
> theocracy. Take a look at the power structure.
> View Interactive
> The difference, at least in part, has to do with scale: China has  
> about 300 million Internet users, the most of any country. Iran,  
> which has an estimated 23 million users, can track all online  
> communication through a single location called the  
> Telecommunication Infrastructure Co., part of the government's  
> telecom monopoly. All of the country's international links run  
> through the company.
> Separately, officials from the U.S. embassy in Beijing on Friday  
> met with Chinese officials to express concerns about a new  
> requirement that all PCs sold in the China starting July 1 be  
> installed with Web-filtering software.
> If a government wants to control the flow of information across its  
> borders it's no longer enough to block access to Web sites hosted  
> elsewhere. Now, as sharing online images and messages through  
> social-networking sites has become easy and popular, repressive  
> regimes are turning to technologies that allow them to scan such  
> content from their own citizens, message by message.
> Human-rights groups have criticized the selling of such equipment  
> to Iran and other regimes considered repressive, because it can be  
> used to crack down on dissent, as evidenced in the Iran crisis.  
> Asked about selling such equipment to a government like Iran's, Mr.  
> Roome of Nokia Siemens Networks said the company "does have a  
> choice about whether to do business in any country. We believe  
> providing people, wherever they are, with the ability to  
> communicate is preferable to leaving them without the choice to be  
> heard."
> Countries with repressive governments aren't the only ones  
> interested in such technology. Britain has a list of blocked sites,  
> and the German government is considering similar measures. In the  
> U.S., the National Security Agency has such capability, which was  
> employed as part of the Bush administration's "Terrorist  
> Surveillance Program." A White House official wouldn't comment on  
> if or how this is being used under the Obama administration.
> The Australian government is experimenting with Web-site filtering  
> to protect its youth from online pornography, an undertaking that  
> has triggered criticism that it amounts to government-backed  
> censorship.
> Content inspection and filtering technology are already common  
> among corporations, schools and other institutions, as part of  
> efforts to block spam and viruses, as well as to ensure that  
> employees and students comply with computer-use guidelines.  
> Families use filtering on their home computers to protect their  
> children from undesirable sites, such as pornography and gambling.
> Internet censoring in Iran was developed with the initial  
> justification of blocking online pornography, among other material  
> considered offensive by the regime, according to those who have  
> studied the country's censoring.
> Iran has been grappling with controlling the Internet since its use  
> moved beyond universities and government agencies in the late  
> 1990s. At times, the government has tried to limit the country's  
> vibrant blogosphere -- for instance, requiring bloggers to obtain  
> licenses from the government, a directive that has proved difficult  
> to enforce, according to the OpenNet Initiative, a partnership of  
> universities that study Internet filtering and surveillance. (The  
> partners are Harvard University, the University of Toronto, the  
> University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.)
> Beginning in 2001, the government required Internet service  
> providers to install filtering systems, and also that all  
> international connections link to a single gateway controlled by  
> the country's telecom monopoly, according to an OpenNet study.
> Iran has since blocked Internet users in the country from more than  
> five million sites in recent years, according to estimates from the  
> press-freedom group Reporters Without Borders.
> View Slideshow
> [SB124561206327535087]
> In the 2005 presidential election, the government shut down the  
> Internet for hours, blaming it on a cyberattack from abroad, a  
> claim that proved false, according to several Tehran engineers.
> Several years ago, research by OpenNet discovered the government  
> using filtering equipment from a U.S. company, Secure Computing  
> Corp. Due to the U.S. trade embargo on Iran, in place since the  
> 1979 Islamic revolution overthrew the U.S.-backed shah, that was  
> illegal. Secure Computing, now owned by McAfee Inc., at the time  
> denied any knowledge of the use of its products in Iran. McAfee  
> said due diligence before the acquisition revealed no contract or  
> support being provided in Iran.
> Building online-content inspection on a national scale and  
> coordinated at a single location requires hefty resources,  
> including manpower, processing power and technical expertise,  
> Internet experts said.
> Nokia Siemens Networks provided equipment to Iran last year under  
> the internationally recognized concept of "lawful intercept," said  
> Mr. Roome. That relates to intercepting data for the purposes of  
> combating terrorism, child pornography, drug trafficking and other  
> criminal activities carried out online, a capability that most if  
> not all telecom companies have, he said.
> The monitoring center that Nokia Siemens Networks sold to Iran was  
> described in a company brochure as allowing "the monitoring and  
> interception of all types of voice and data communication on all  
> networks." The joint venture exited the business that included the  
> monitoring equipment, what it called "intelligence solutions," at  
> the end of March, by selling it to Perusa Partners Fund 1 LP, a  
> Munich-based investment firm, Mr. Roome said. He said the company  
> determined it was no longer part of its core business.
> ?Ben Worthen in San Francisco, Mike Esterl in Atlanta and Siobhan  
> Gorman in Washington contributed to this article.
> Write to Christopher Rhoads at christopher.rhoads at wsj.com and  
> Loretta Chao at loretta.chao at wsj.com
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> Thiru Balasubramaniam
> Geneva Representative
> Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
> thiru at keionline.org
> Tel: +41 22 791 6727
> Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

Robin Gross, Executive Director
1192 Haight Street, San Francisco, CA  94117  USA
p: +1-415-553-6261    f: +1-415-462-6451
w: http://www.ipjustice.org     e: robin at ipjustice.org

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