Print 7 comment(s) - last by ClownPuncher.. on Mar 12 at 3:42 PM

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  (Source: The Telegraph)
Ban makes it harder to use Facebook, Skype

While most industrialized nations today exercise a degree of online censorship, Iran has often been billed as among the worst.  Much like China, Iran both blocks material questioning the ruling party, and material it finds morally questionable (such as pornography).

I. Iran Bans Uncensored VPNs

In regimes like Iran, one common way to get around filters is to use an encrypted virtual proxy network (VPN), which funnels requests for forbidden content, encrypted, to servers outside of Iran, and then replies, encrypted, to the customer.  But Iranian internet censorship ratcheted up this week as state authorities began blocking traffic from encrypted VPNs.

Ramezanali Sobhani-Fard, a Parliamentarian from Iran's ruling ABII party and the head of parliament's information and communications technology committee, calls VPN use "illegal" for most citizens.  In comments to state news agency Mehr, he remarks, "Within the last few days illegal VPN ports in the country have been blocked.  Only legal and registered VPNs can from now on be used."

The blockade inadvertently cut off access to Google Inc. (GOOG) and Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) search portals, which are typically allowed in censored form.  Mr. Sobhani-Fard said the government was looking into that unpleasant side effect of the new censorship rollout.

Iranian women on internet
Iran no longer is allowing the use of external VPNs, in a bid to step up internet censorship.
[Image Source: Reuters]

The crackdown comes after an announcement in January by Mehdi Akhavan Behabadi, secretary of Iran's Supreme Cyberspace Council to Mehr.  In that announcement, Mr. Behabadi had stated that only registered VPNs -- who operate inside of Iran and are government monitored -- would be allowed.  Banks and other financial institutions that have "legitimate" security reasons for VPN use were encouraged to switch over to the domestic options.

Reuters reports that an internet user in Isfahan, Iran's second largest city, confirms that VPNs are no longer working.  The man, who went by "Mohamad", comments, "VPNs are cut off. They've shut all the ports."

The blockade bans popular internet telephony services such as Skype and Viber.  It also blocks access to the world's most popular social network -- Facebook.  Iran views Facebook, Inc.'s (FB) network as a portal to dissent and has banned it; yet despite that the network has been popular in Iran thanks to the use of VPNs.

Iran Facebooki
Facebook remains popular in Iran, despite being formally banned.
[Image Source: Int'l Herald Tribune]

"Mohamad" reports that he and his peers are using "alternatives" to traditional VPNs in order to access Facebook.

II. Political Unrest is Boiling in Islamist Republic

The crackdown on VPNs coincides with a dangerous time for Iran's ruling regime.

A presidential election will be held this fall, amid tough inflation and poverty issues.  Iran's currency has been devaluing as much as 25 percent per week.  While Iran's leaders blame the U.S. and international sanctions, many in Iran are growing frustrated with the leadership direction.

Last election -- in 2009 -- saw the nation in not-quite-as-bad financial state, but still saw record levels of unrest.  The results of that election were contested, leading to protests, and a brutal crackdown by the government of two-term President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In recent weeks there have already been major protests.

Iran protests
In recent weeks Iranian protesters have clashed with riot police, similar to the riots of 2009 (pictured). [Image Source: Wired]

In response, Iran briefly banned Gmail, Google's popular email client, looking to further cut off potential contact between government critics.  However, so many politicians in the ruling party used Google's service that there was an internal backlash, and access was restored.

In the long term Iran is hoping to switch citizens onto its own miniature version of the internet, which will be monitored and air-gapped from foreign networks.  However, moving the nation's 75 million people on such a network is a daunting task, and one that the nation's troubled economy seems ill prepared to manage.

Source: Reuters

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Ammohunt on 3/11/2013 3:03:06 PM , Rating: 2
Its news when paranoid Islamic theocracy censors internet access for its citizens?

RE: News?
By M'n'M on 3/11/2013 6:51:33 PM , Rating: 3
Not ground breaking news certainly, but news nonetheless. We can only hope such actions further more dissent in Iran. As slim a hope as it may be, perhaps one day the Iranians will decide the Mullahs are just as bad as the Shah was and it's time for new leadership.

Mind you, I won't be holding my breath while waiting for that day.

RE: News?
By michael67 on 3/12/2013 12:28:22 AM , Rating: 1
They rather are being fucked over by there own people, then fucked over by the CIA of uncle Sam.

How long til it happens??
By sorry dog on 3/12/2013 3:28:38 PM , Rating: 2
While it's obvious news it still confirms my opinion that their leaders are sealing their fates.

The majority of the population over there obviously craves online services that we now take for granted...and just like the war on drugs, when people demand something, they will find a way to get it no matter the government's efforts to prohibit it.

In this case it seems like quite a costly move to ban VPN's as you are disrupting normal business. I worked for a while in China setting up connections for offshore exploration platforms and those companies had to go to much greater expense than usual (sometimes had to use satellite feeds) because of government efforts to monitor connections (usually for corporate espionage reasons). This raises the cost of doing business in Iran and will affect their income in the end.

As long at the Iranian leaders are hurting themselves, I don't see the need for us to pull the trigger on any strike opeations...we just need a bag a of popcorn and watch the internal implosion.

RE: How long til it happens??
By ClownPuncher on 3/12/2013 3:42:24 PM , Rating: 2
Iran has a very strong Revolutionary guard and police force. It's tough for the people who want change to get it.

browsing statistics
By hellokeith on 3/11/2013 1:52:09 PM , Rating: 2

Do you have any solid numbers on to where people in Iran are browsing? I'm curious if USA-centric sites are dominant, popular, or just among other international portals that the Iranian people frequent online.

In before...
By inperfectdarkness on 3/12/2013 3:56:33 AM , Rating: 2
...the first pro-Iranian poster comes in and decries all of DT as a bunch of Muslim-hating, American-loving infidels who should all be stoned.

Thank god for N.Korea. Iran only looks highly insane, vice stupifyingly insane.

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