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Iran Getting Better At Filtering Web Traffic 68

Posted by Soulskill
from the practice-makes-perfect dept.
Al writes "Rob Lemos reports that Iran's national ISPs seem to have recently gained the ability to filter large quantities of web traffic more effectively. Arbor Networks used data gathered from distributed network sensors to monitor the data going to Iran from the global internet. The firm found that all of the country's providers showed an enormous drop in traffic following the contested June 12 election, then nearly normal traffic patterns until June 26. After that, five of six national ISPs showed an 80 percent drop in traffic for approximately three weeks. The one internal ISP that continues to see significant traffic during those three weeks counts many government ministries among its clientèle. The picture painted by the data is of an ISP that is becoming increasingly skilled in filtering, says Craig Labovitz, chief scientist for Arbor Networks."
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Iran Getting Better At Filtering Web Traffic

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  • Tactics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Saturday August 08, 2009 @08:17AM (#28995241) Journal

    Iran's national ISPs seem to have recently gained the ability to filter large quantities of web traffic more effectively.

    Quite good tactic. Instead of fighting, now every country and RIAA/MPAA wants to do business with Iran to implement these high-performing filters everywhere.

    • Re:Tactics (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Shin-LaC (1333529) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @08:39AM (#28995331)
      Actually, they'll want to do business with Germany and Finland, since Iran's filtering systems were provided by a Siemens-Nokia partnership.
      • Cite this. Then we'll publicize the hell out of it.

        • Re:Tactics (Score:4, Informative)

          by vbraga (228124) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @09:10AM (#28995441) Journal

          From a quick Google search:

          Iran's Web Spying Aided By Western Technology [wsj.com]

          • Can't we ban these companies form doing that kind of business with Iran, China, UAE, etc and any business that does do business with them from doing business with Europe and the US? It's not like this stuff is trivial and they could come up with it on their own tomorrow. I guess the wild card is Russia.

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by plnix0 (807376)
              How about we ban them from doing business with all governments? After all, From the WSJ article referenced by GP:

              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 i

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by suzerain (245705)
          I think that information is coming largely from this article [guardian.co.uk].
      • And the next customer is Ursula von der Leyen?

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        UK and USA demand the same listening/spying features from their equipment, so this seems a bit hypocritical.

      • Not true (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        How do you do this with a telephone switch?

        To clarify: Nokia Siemens Networks has provided Lawful Intercept capability solely for the monitoring of local voice calls in Iran. Nokia Siemens Networks has not provided any deep packet inspection, web censorship or Internet filtering capability to Iran.

        http://blogs.nokiasiemensnetworks.com/news/2009/06/22/provision-of-lawful-intercept-capability-in-iran/

    • Iran gets richer, outscores the bordering countries, becomes strategically fundamental (again), gets invaded. Far-seeing tactics, dare I say.
  • by xzvf (924443) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @08:33AM (#28995311)
    Iran probably just pointed its Linksys router to OpenDNS.
  • Can anyone provide some updates on this - helping Iran citizens get free speech on Internet?

    Sorry I'm a bit rusty here. I know we can set up proxy servers, and modify our Twitter accounts, and so on (I use Google) but I'm not sure if the information is still accurate (especially the IP address filtering for proxy services).

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 08, 2009 @10:16AM (#28995739)

      Another interesting thing is that international TV is illegal in Iran as well. The police flies around with helicopters and later demolishes the dishes, and fines the owners. DVDs are illegal aswell. Young Iranians are fans of western culture though, and there is a lively black market. Fashion rules continuously loosened in the last decade.

      I hope some day the momentum of youth is strong enough to overthrough the old peoples opinion and form government (which is very unpopular). Iran has a lot of potential as a nation. Would it refine its oil within the country instead of exporting it and importing petroleum, it would be a wealthy nation that could afford the best for its citizens.

      I wish the Iranian young generation the best.

      • Young Iranians are fans of western culture though, and there is a lively black market.

        Interesting. It could be argued that the west pushed capitalism on the USSR by making sure western greed settled into its impressionable youth in a similar way. And now, here we are with an oil-rich Iran full of evil people, but having spirited youth who will win the day.

        Pawn, anyone?

  • satellite wifi, just think if there was a satellite over iran that beamed wifi and radio & television on open channels & frequencies, that will sure get the ayatollah's panties in a bunch
    • satellite wifi, just think if there was a satellite over iran that beamed wifi and radio & television on open channels & frequencies, that will sure get the ayatollah's panties in a bunch

      Sure, because it's so damn hard for the Iran's authorities to spot satellite dishes. After all, they are only large, and have to be visible from the satellite (and therefore from air), so how would they ever be found?

      • by FudRucker (866063)
        they just need to find a way to disguise them to not look like a satellite dish, just while i typed the first part of this comment i thought of making a satellite dish look like a bird bath would make a great disguise, then when you want to get online or watch tv / listen to radio just empty the water and set the azimuth...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by erroneus (253617)

          Yes, they might look good disguised as a camel or a roadside bomb.

          Satellite dishes work pretty well from beneath wood and cardboard. Shielding it from view isn't so much a problem as the radio transmissions. Satellite technology is still "radio" and even when it is highly directional, it still produces a lot of signal that can be picked up by trucks with sensory equipment.

          And yes, you can bet Iran will have official government "War Driving."

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Yvanhoe (564877)
        Well, my only source is Marjane Satrapi's "Perseopolis" but apparently since several years Iranians have become experts at hiding satellite dishes during the day, only to uncover them at night.
      • by mo0s3 (1563877)
        Owning a dish is illegal in Iran, but it is pretty widespread, and the authorities generally turn a blind eye to it. Iran also has its own satellite channels targeting Arabic-speakers, and also one in English. Apparently they did jam the BBC Persian broadcasts with the recent unrest.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Owning a dish is illegal in Iran, but it is pretty widespread, and the authorities generally turn a blind eye to it.

          I believe they stopped the blind-eye bit a few weeks ago. Saw a photo from Iran a few weeks ago of a truck full of satellite dishes that had apparently been confiscated by uniformed police or paramilitaries. Sorry I can't find the link for you. Looked through my browser history and it's not jumping out at me.

  • Operation AJAX (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Conzar (1603461)
    Iran has been attacked by foreign government's propaganda before (Operation AJAX) so the establishment are trying to protect their rule.
    • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @09:34AM (#28995539)
      Why do people think that client-side JavaScript is the answer to everything?


      P.S. It's REALLY amusing to me that Firefox' built-in spill chucker doesn't recognize the word "javascript".
      • Why should it? It also doesn't recognize Mozilla, Firefox. That is great, because Mozilla chose to not pollute the users dictionary with product names.

      • It's REALLY amusing to me that Firefox' built-in spill chucker doesn't recognize the word "javascript".

        Try uninstalling the English - New Zealand dictionary.

      • Why do people think that client-side JavaScript is the answer to everything?

        Because it's so annoying that no one would tolerate it unless it had superpowers?

  • Maybe they bought some of Arbor's E-Series [arbornetworks.com] products.

  • While there were reports of sites being inaccessible, I doubt that filtering is to blame for all of this traffic reduction.

    How much was due simply to people being out in the streets protesting, instead of inside their houses watching YouTube videos?

    - RG>

    • by cyn1c77 (928549)

      Considering that Iranians were complaining about incredibly slow bandwidth rates and blocked websites during the same time periods that traffic dropped by 80%, it is safe to say that filtering is to blame for the traffic reduction.

      80% is a massive drop in traffic from protesting alone. It isn't like these kids don't have cell phone data plans and the ability to setup wireless access points on the fly. For some of them, protesting involved trying to organize and network via the internet and they have st

      • by Dr. Evil (3501) on Saturday August 08, 2009 @02:02PM (#28997057)

        I was in Iran recently. It was just before the protests. Internet connectivity in Tehran pretty sluggish. It's like stepping back ten years. Most people are using dial-up. Cybercafes brag that they're hooked up on a 1Mbps DSL.

        For kicks, I thought I would dig up something on the CIA World Fact book. cia.gov is blocked. Imagine that.

        There were many other sites which were blocked, but for the most part, the censorship on the net was pretty moderate. The real tool in the government arsenal is fear.

        It's truly sad what the government is doing. Old technology, like yelling from rooftops seems to be all that you can muster. Apparently the possession and use of encryption technology is illegal, and the govenrment merely has to suspect you of doing something wrong for you to get into serious trouble. Remember too, that just asking your friends to gather at your home is also very suspicious.

        Remember too that the government employs tactics like the German Stasi. They corrupt, influence and interfere with citizenry to turn your neighbours into spies. You can never be sure that the person you're talking to is legitimate. So the bad guys aren't aways wearing uniforms or beating people. And the bad guys are often good guys who are just trying to get themselves out of trouble. Your dial-up connection has your name on it and every cybercafe probably has somebody who's loosely in the services of the government.

        The Internet is not safe in Iran. Not safe at all. I'm sure the phone systems are just as bad and satellite is, as other posters have pointed out, quite illegal, although comparatively lax in penalties.

        The question is how do you create a decentralized kind of communication system which requires legally available technology?

        Yelling messages of peace from rooftops is one way to get a message out and avoid being killed for it.

        All this wasn't so bad when I was there. People are willing to risk a beating to spend time together and talk about slightly subversive topics, particularly with a foreigner. As a foreigner, I too had to be careful that the person I was talking to was not reporting to the government... else I could find myself... well, they'd probably arrest me, cancel my visa and take me to the airport. They're not too bad to foreigners.

        Point is. No. I think they really did turn the screws on the net connections. The pipes in the capital are slow enough that modern technology could be doing automated deep-packet inspection and building databases correlating data on everything going in and out of the country.

        A comment before the election was telling about the feeling of the average Iranian. "Not much is going to change... except we'll see an increase in the price of green paint."

        That government needs reforms. Badly. And I can't see it coming about peacefully when the people aren't even allowed to talk to one another about it.

  • Maybe they just got really efficient at blocking SPAM?

    • by plnix0 (807376)

      Maybe they just got really efficient at blocking SPAM?

      Yeah, unsolicited advertisements for anti-government positions transferred over the Internet.

  • I can't understand why a totalitarian dictatorship would have an Internet AT ALL.
  • From WSJ [wsj.com]:

    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.

    I don't see what's the big deal? They're only blocking criminal activities; which is to say, dissenting from the government.

  • The one internal ISP that continues to see significant traffic during those three weeks counts many government ministries among its clientèle.

    This strikes me as a rather fundamental big red flag. When a government feels that otherwise public information is safe for government officials to view, but that the citizens must be forbidden from seeing it, there is a foundational problem.

    We have a few such cases here in the United States (even outside the scope national security, which information is typicall

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Sunday August 09, 2009 @12:15AM (#29000527)

    yes, its true, the west has more information available to us. at least we think so.

    and generally, we do have more.

    but lets ask ourselves, how much info that our government(s) (collective, it is a world-wide effect, after all) have that we'll never see?

    this isn't filtering of public vs public, its stuff our govs know that they withold. 'freedom of information' was a farce under bush, we all know that. this is the kind of thing I'm talking about; stuff we want to know about *ourselves* and yet we aren't allowed to. or we're lied to.

    war on drugs, good example. its a case of our gov lying to us. there have been studies (gov funded! that's my point) that prove, time after time, that MJ is not harmful. just to pick one example that's pretty easy to research. nixon's people even told him that it was not a big deal, yet that's where the war on drugs pretty much started. even in the face of real data showing the opposite.

    so what I'm saying is that we are given the impression that we are free and we have access to all the info we need. but its not true, its only that we're given *a lot* of info and the feeling of being able to research and find answers, but in many areas, we are intentionally kept dumb.

    before we act all 'USA USA, we are free here!', we should examine how much we really can find out and how much is kept 'for national security'. these days, a 'national security letter' can squelch almost anyone from talking. the gov has that much power, now.

    much of the important info is kept from us. so in a way, we are also very filtered by our own governments. not just at the internet level, but independant of the way you try to get the info, freedom-of-info letters take forever, if they're even honored at all. and if they're honored, are they going to be worth anything after all the edits 'for your safety'?

    they give us a lot of freedom, and so we feel free. feeling free is not being free.

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