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The Internet Helps Iran Silence Activists

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the alternative-views dept.

Censorship 232

Hugh Pickens writes "Over the last couple of weeks, those who believe in the transformative power of technology to battle an oppressive state have pointed to Iran as a test case. However, as Farhad Manjoo writes on Slate, the real conclusion about news now coming out of Iran is that for regimes bent on survival, electronic dissent is easier to suppress than organizing methods of the past. Using a system installed last year, built in part by Nokia and Siemens, the government routes all digital traffic in the country through a single choke point, using the capabilities of deep packet inspection to monitor every e-mail, tweet, blog post, and possibly even every phone call placed in Iran. 'Compare that with East Germany, in which the Stasi managed to tap, at most, about 100,000 phone lines — a gargantuan task that required 2,000 full-time technicians to monitor the calls,' writes Manjoo. The effects of this control have been seen over the past couple days, with only a few harrowing pictures and videos getting through Iran's closed net. For most citizens, posting videos and even tweeting eyewitness accounts remains fraught with peril, and the same tools that activists use can be used by the government to spread disinformation. The government is also using crowdsourcing by posting pictures of protesters and asking citizens for help in identifying the activists. 'If you think about it, that's no surprise,' writes Manjoo. 'Who said that only the good guys get to use the power of the Web to their advantage?'"

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232 comments

another way to look at it (0, Troll)

memnock (466995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493873)

_corporations_ help silence activists in Iran

Re:another way to look at it (1)

Dionysus (12737) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493923)

_corporations_ help silence activists in Iran

So it's the corporations that are identifying the activists?

Re:another way to look at it (1)

memnock (466995) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493939)

i said they help. they're credited with writing the software.

Re:another way to look at it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28493957)

it certainly makes more sense than saying the internet does it, but you know, the neocon slashtards cant swallow that one out of fear of reality sickness.

Re:another way to look at it (4, Insightful)

sco08y (615665) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494025)

So help was your weasel word to pretend to be saying something without having to defend it.

It's more defensible than you think, though.

The fact is that Twitter is designed to be a fun thing for people to use in a relatively non-oppressive society. As such, it's designed under the assumption that they don't *want* criminals or terrorists on their network. So their design works in a free country but can be used against a populace or simply suppressed in an oppressive country.

The problem here, really, is that overthrowing a government is not a trivial exercise and the populace of Iran needs the proper tools. Seriously, is anyone surprised that something called "Twitter" isn't exactly military grade?

Re:another way to look at it (4, Insightful)

chipwich (131556) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494437)

I think the GP meant that the __corporations__ of *Siemens* and *Nokia* are facilitating (aka "help"ing) to silence activists in Iran by providing deep-packet inspection tools to Government controlled telecom.

To that extent, a centralized government controlled data infrastructure can always be used for nefarious purposes, even if that wasn't the intent on installation. As for-profit companies, Nokia and Siemens probably approached the proposal by looking at the bottom line profit, not the moral implications. Its just business.

But regardless of the intent why the DPI machines were put in place, the possibility for good and evil are both increased in lock-step. Within the US our centralization and inspection of domestic data in the name of fighting terrorism takes us down a slippery slope, even though the possible (and likely) misuses of this data are swept under the rug.

There are those of us who believe that the only way to ensure free speech (and all the good and bad that accompany it) is to ensure societies ability to develop decentralized communications exchange,

Re:another way to look at it (3, Informative)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494689)

I think a spokesman from Nokia claimed that installation of such systems is legally required to build a cellphone network in the western world, so it's not like they'd have had a strong moral standing to deny the sale.

Re:another way to look at it (1)

d'fim (132296) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494659)

"...your weasel word to pretend to be saying something..."

The body of memnock's post was exactly six words long, and you couldn't be bothered to read _all_ of them? So the rest of us are to judge memnock's meaning based on your interpretation, not on what memnock actually wrote? I don't think that memnock pretended to say anything that memnock did not actually say. You, on the other hand, are pretending to know what memnock "really" said . . .

Yet another way to look at it (2, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493991)

ARPA's Internet project grows out of control, works against sister agency's insurrection attempt.

Re:Yet another way to look at it (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494275)

ARPA's Internet project grows out of control, works against sister agency's insurrection attempt.

I don't look at it this way. My view on it is simple.

There are some things that technology does not change. There is simply no substitute for a large mob of armed (with melee weapons if necessary) and very pissed off people surrounding a capital and demanding either the resignation, or the head, of a tyrant. Information and argumentation and documentation, which is what the Internet is good for, are useful for making sure things don't get to that point. For the Iranians, it's a bit too late for that.

Re:Yet another way to look at it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494797)

Actually technology changes the number of people it takes to oppress an entire country. The current Iranian government is opposed by certainly at least a majority of Iranians, if not outright by 80-90% of the country. Yet those 10% manage to oppress the other parts quite effectively. Technology has enormously lowered the amount of people it takes to oppress a country completely.

As noted in the article, free information flow by networks connecting a normal-sized country used to be only 1% a 2% blockable by over 2000 full-time technicians. Now a few hundred manage to block very close to 100%.

The fault is not nokia's. In fact openbsd and freebsd firewalls are capable of doing this, administered by a capable administrator, on just about any hardware. And with minor modifications of conntrack, linux would do it just fine too. This would work on just about any server hardware.

There is, however, one factor that above all others disadvantages the protestors : the total disinterest of the rest of the world. Nobody, not even the American government, is interested in bringing freedom to Iranians. Merely mentioning the struggle of Iranians once a day is too much to ask for any but the most extreme-right of news sources. The American government, now so heavily punished for supporting the most remote and ill-deserving people of the world in their struggles for freedom from centralized oppressive government, has but a few comforting words. There was a time when the American government would arm Osama Bin Laden, just because he was fighting one form of oppression, even knowing he only did so to introduce another form of oppression, islam.

There was a time the American government was willing to make the hard choices to fight oppression, and obviously the American government has it's shares of scrapes, bruises and mistakes (huge mistakes) to show for it. But if there's one thing the current crisis shows : if helping people to fight for freedom means giving long-range missiles to osama bin laden, it's worth it.

Because without guns, nothing changes. The world is based on reality. And the reality is simple : the person with the most and biggest guns makes the rules.

Re:another way to look at it (2, Funny)

neomunk (913773) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493993)

Posting to undo accidental redundant mod...

A first post that expresses an opinion other than letting us know the temperature of some urine, and I go and hit redundant of all things. Sorry.

Re:another way to look at it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494353)

Fucking piece of shit goddamn Europeans. You make me sick with your pompous posturing about how enlightened and free you supposedly are. You are all hypocritical liars. A smokescreen to hide the real truth that you all want nothing more than totalitarianism and subjugation of every person on the face of the earth. Fucking Siemens and Nokia have blood on their hands but you stupid Euro's will defend and make pathetic excuses for them to your dying breath.

I hope you all fucking die. I hope Iran goes nuclear and attacks Israel and Israel starts full scale war and wipes Europe and the middle east off the fucking map. Fuck you all. Die.

Re:another way to look at it (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494565)

Corporation will _always_ help whoever has money and is willing to part with it. They don't care for good or evil, or a human concept of "morals". They won't refuse a good deal just because it's "evil", neither will they go out of their way to do "evil" if there's no profit to be made. It just happens that most profit is in immoral acts.

Or criminal acts, in which case penalties and the chance to get caught are factored in as cost position. Morals and consciousness have no place in corporate decisions, mostly because the people involved can easily shift their moral concerns aside.

Re:another way to look at it (4, Insightful)

Quothz (683368) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494889)

Corporation will _always_ help whoever has money and is willing to part with it. They don't care for good or evil, or a human concept of "morals".

That isn't a foregone conclusion, although it's true for virtually every corporation today. There's nothing, aside from greed, that prevents corporations from having ethics built into them. Look at Ben & Jerry's, for example; while I don't agree with every stance they take, the corporation honestly tries to be good guys.

Re:another way to look at it (1)

mi (197448) | more than 4 years ago | (#28495029)

_corporations_ help silence activists in Iran

Whereas _cooperatives_ and _communes_ are all working hard to help them...

It's not yet the time for a new revolution in Iran (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28493913)

This just proofs it, Iran is not ready for a big change yet. If Iran wants a proper change, these protests won't just do it alone. What they need is more time. Until the majority of the people are actually believing in change, it won't happen. What they are against is a goverment having a tight grip on all the infrastructure, police and military forces. Until these goverment bodies have openminded and educated people working as "spies", the people of Iran has no change to have a fight they can win.

What they need (1, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493953)

What they need is to have the US and it's pawns to stop threatening to invade, and stop sending hundreds of millions of dollars [newyorker.com] to the CIA for undercover operations fomenting another coup [wikipedia.org] in that country. As long as they are being verbally and covertly threatened by the hyperpower that has just invaded the country next door -- the same country that invited Saddam to invade them in the 80s [consortiumnews.com] -- the hardliners will continue to rule Iran.

One simple rule that imperial powers tend to forget is that people are nearly always divided against their own government but nearly always united against a foreign invader.

No way with regards to Invasion (4, Insightful)

msgmonkey (599753) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494019)

If there has been on country that has benefited from the US "adventures" in Afganistan and Iraq it has been Iran, the US can't do anything to Iran at the moment it is too stretched out both financially and militeraly hence Obama recently changed tack from the previous threating stance. The Iranian leadership know this and that is why the continue with their nuclear program.

I also don't think there is any chance of another coup, there could be a counter-revolution but if this happens it will be because of the youth. Would the US like a counter-revolution, of course they would and the ayatollah is using this argument however the people are n't stupid and we should give them that much credit.

Re:No way with regards to Invasion (0)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494555)

I totally agree with you, the Iraq war has probably been the biggest single gift Iran and Al Qeada have ever received. There's a crescent of angry and now militant Shia muslims from Saudi Arabia, through the oil-rich part of Iraq, and up to Iran. If Al Qeada continues to enjoy the recruiting bonanza of US forces in this area, there's a good chance bin Laden will get the war he was looking for between the west and the muslim world. All he has to do is pull of another terrorist attack inside the US.

Re:What they need (0, Flamebait)

sco08y (615665) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494085)

One simple rule that imperial powers tend to forget is that people are nearly always divided against their own government but nearly always united against a foreign invader.

"Nearly always" is your way of acknowledging that a lot of people, including Obama, have a whole lot of egg on their face about Iraq, and that you know damned well there's a big difference between "invader" and "aggressor."

Re:What they need (1, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494417)

"Nearly always" is your way of acknowledging that a lot of people, including Obama, have a whole lot of egg on their face about Iraq, and that you know damned well there's a big difference between "invader" and "aggressor."

Do you think we're going to abandon our permanent military bases in Iraq [globalsecurity.org]? Do you think we're going to allow Iraq to take back control of their own oil resources? You do know that we own them now [nytimes.com], don't you?

If we're invaders and not aggressors, we'd just leave the military bases and oil fields to Iraqis, and we would have left after their first election. But we're not going to leave, so stop pretending.

Re:What they need (0, Flamebait)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494323)

What they need is to have the US and it's pawns to stop threatening to invade, and stop sending hundreds of millions of dollars [newyorker.com] to the CIA for undercover operations fomenting another coup [wikipedia.org] in that country. As long as they are being verbally and covertly threatened by the hyperpower that has just invaded the country next door -- the same country that invited Saddam to invade them in the 80s [consortiumnews.com] -- the hardliners will continue to rule Iran.

One simple rule that imperial powers tend to forget is that people are nearly always divided against their own government but nearly always united against a foreign invader.

How to get modded "Flamebait" on Slashdot: suggest that things like coups or terrorism don't just happen in a vacuum.

Re:What they need (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494751)

As long as they are being verbally and covertly threatened by the hyperpower that has just invaded the country next door.

Two countries next door, damnit. Two. We are still in Afghanistan, not matter how much we want to forget.

Technically, as we've bombed inside the border of Pakistan, it might be three.

Re:What they need (4, Insightful)

Quothz (683368) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494901)

We are still in Afghanistan, not matter how much we want to forget.

But we didn't invade Afghanistan. We're there with the permission and support of the nation's government.

Re:What they need (1, Informative)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#28495047)

The Taliban was a client of ours until the September 11th attacks. Then we demanded that they hand bin Laden over or we'd bomb them. They demanded evidence. We sent the troops in. The Taliban never invited us, but after we finally ran them out of town, too late to stop their support of Al Qeada, the government we installed invited us to stay. Then we sent ten times as many troops to Iraq, which had nothing to do with terrorism until we split open their borders.

But here's a far more interesting tidbit. I couldn't confirm the date on the LA Times website of this article (May 2001), but it's a pretty enlightening view on how moral relativism in foreign policy is self-destructive.

http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n922/a09.html [mapinc.org]

Enslave your girls and women, harbor anti-U.S. terrorists, destroy every vestige of civilization in your homeland, and the Bush administration will embrace you. All that matters is that you line up as an ally in the drug war, the only international cause that this nation still takes seriously.

That's the message sent with the recent gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan, the most virulent anti-American violators of human rights in the world today. The gift, announced last Thursday by Secretary of State Colin Powell, in addition to other recent aid, makes the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that "rogue regime" for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God. So, too, by the Taliban's estimation, are most human activities, but it's the ban on drugs that catches this administration's attention.

Never mind that Osama bin Laden still operates the leading anti-American terror operation from his base in Afghanistan, from which, among other crimes, he launched two bloody attacks on American embassies in Africa in 1998.

Sadly, the Bush administration is cozying up to the Taliban regime at a time when the United Nations, at U.S. insistence, imposes sanctions on Afghanistan because the Kabul government will not turn over Bin Laden.

Your right, unfortunately. (1)

microbox (704317) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494763)

The current regime are using the bad deeds of our fathers as leverage to commit evil deeds. The US /does/ need to stop going to war every few years, that's true. However, even if the USA was a saint, I really don't think it'd make a difference; the Iranian regime is acting like a paranoid psychotic.

You can help. (5, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493917)

You can help. Get involved by going over to the NedaNet Resources Page [catb.org] and setting up a squid proxy or, better yet, a Tor proxy, to help the Iranian dissidents. This is a real, live underground network, being run by Eric Raymond and some other folks who are remaining anonymous.

Re:You can help. (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494129)

And the United States government is going to extradite U.S. citizens aiding dissidents to Iran because .... we have good diplomatic relations with Iran? *blink*

C'mon. Same goes for the U.K. and several other European nations.

Can Iranian Regime MITM all of Iran? (3, Interesting)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494545)

Since they have a single choke-point, can the Iranian regime do a Man In The Middle attack on the entire country? They'd have to do something about the certificates that get pre-installed on new computers. (China's powerful enough for that, but not Iran.) I'm not sure they can manage this. However, they can insure that the real certs won't work, and could then distribute "patches" for that. They could also cook up their own "cache" for 3rd party browsers like Firefox and Opera with the bogus certs.

This would let them snoop on all public-key based cryptosystems, like SSL. However, they would need enough processing power to quickly do all of the key negotiation for the entire country in real-time. (I suspect that China can afford resources like that for this purpose, but not Iran.)

Re:Can Iranian Regime MITM all of Iran? (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494701)

Eh? The GFW has been known to run out of capacity at peak times and stop reliably blocking things. They don't even have the resources to do stream re-assembly, splitting the stopwords across packet boundaries is enough to defeat it. I don't think they'll be decrypting traffic in realtime anytime soon.

Re:You can help. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494579)

Geez people, you're mighty funny. Look at the summary before recommending Tor. Tor doesn't help at all if your ISP is cooperating with the authorities, which is, without doubt the case in Iran. Using tor in these circumstances will only make you stand out.

TCPI/IP over avian carriers, on the other hand, could be a better idea. Any place I can sign up with my pidgeons to help?

Oh, and cut that Neda*whatnot crap please.

Steganography (4, Insightful)

sowth (748135) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493927)

This may be true, but if encryption and steganography were the norm, the story would be different.

What if everyone used, say Freenet for publishing instead of http? The government would have much more trouble finding or censoring them.

Re:Steganography (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28493961)

Yeah. Hopefully this era we're in where we have global communication capabilities but don't bother encrypting end-to-end is short-lived, and will be considered a blip on a historical timescale.

US citizens' have their hands tied (4, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494017)

It remains illegal to export or reexport strong cryptography to Iran. Despite Phil Zimmerman's testimony before Congress, and despite his presentation of letters from people around the world who used PGP to save lives, there are still restrictions on who we may export this sort of software to. I have no doubt that the protestors in Iran would benefit immensely if they were using PGP or some similarly strong crypto, but here in the US, you could be imprisoned for sending it to them.

Re:US citizens' have their hands tied (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494041)

Oh please, you don't actually think aiding dissidents in a foreign country is legal do ya? The only thing stopping Iran from demanding the extradition of these people is that they are anonymous.. except for Eric S. Raymond, and who wants him in their country?

Re:US citizens' have their hands tied (1, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494397)

You are really believing this shit, are you?

I can't count the levels on which this is just wrong.

First of all, I thought in the US (and many other countries), it were the rule, that if you murdered foreign people, and did other bad things to them, you would in the first place be a "hero", as long as they are officially the "evil ones". (Example: The "soldiers".)

Then, do you really think, Iran can demand *anything* from the USA? lol. You must be out of your mind!

Or are you just trolling?

Re:US citizens' have their hands tied (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494541)

Oh please, you don't actually think aiding dissidents in a foreign country is legal do ya? The only thing stopping Iran from demanding the extradition of these people is that they are anonymous..

Extradition? What have you been smoking? Iran has a long history of assassinating dissidents in foreign countries.

Like in Germany [eurasianet.org].

Re:US citizens' have their hands tied (2, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494605)

Legal? Illegal? Remove yourself from such dated concepts.

Whether something is legal does not matter. What matters is what is the possible punishment, what is the chance to get caught, what is the gain.

And here the possible punishment is, essentially, nonexistant. Do you honestly think the US administration (or any administration in the self proclaimed 'free world') would extradit one of their citizens to Iran, for whatever reasons whatsoever? Obama already got some heat from the right wing for being "soft" on terror, if anything it would be a great chance to show he won't bow to the request of the armpit of evil.

Re:US citizens' have their hands tied - SO WHAT? (1)

fnj (64210) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494089)

The past called and says you shouldn't be living there any more. The days when anybody cared about the U.S. trying to keep the genie in a bottle are long gone. Uh, the rest of the world understands technology too and is fully capable of working with it. GnuPG is mirrored around the world.

Re:US citizens' have their hands tied - SO WHAT? (2, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494205)

Actually, there are still plenty of people who care. The company I work for ships software that uses OpenSSL, and the policy on Iran (and other countries on the "black list") is simple: if I receive an email from someone in Iran, I must immediately forward it to the corporate communications department, I must not reply, and I must not in any way communicate to them how they can obtain our software. This is despite the fact that OpenSSL could easily be obtained in Iran. The same policy applies to anyone who indicates that they intend to reexport the software.

Believe it or not, the laws of the United States do have important consequences for people who live and work here.

Re:US citizens' have their hands tied - SO WHAT? (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494769)

The company I work for ships software that uses OpenSSL, and the policy on Iran (and other countries on the "black list") is simple: if I receive an email from someone in Iran, I must immediately forward it to the corporate communications department

Hummm but I wonder what the chaps in the CC dept do?
 
.. CITATION REQUESTED ..

Re:US citizens' have their hands tied (1)

rrossman2 (844318) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494095)

which is dumb... someone who lives outside the united state could very well download the strong crypto program or library legally (well legal for the person in the US hosting it), and maybe their country doesn't have the same export laws for crypto, and hosts it for a country that's a no-no from a US point of view

I'ts only illegal in the US (3, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494161)

If you think PGP and other steg. tools are not available everywhere in the world you have rocks in your head. The US does not have a monopoly on smart mathematicians or encryption methods.

The only effect of the US bans on cryptography export is to handcuff the US software industry, and make some congress-critters feel nice.

Re:I'ts only illegal in the US (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494265)

I did not say it was not available, nor did I say that the only crypto experts in the world lived in the US; I said we could not export or reexport crypto systems. The reexport clause is where the real problem lies -- it could be illegal to direct an Iranian to a mirror of NSS or OpenSSL even if the mirror were not in the US, since that is technically reexporting the software.

So if I wanted to help the Iranian protestors by telling them how to set up cryptography, I would have to start by assuming that they already had the software or knew where to get it -- neither case is likely if they are not already using crypto.

Encryption VS Deep Packet Inspection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28493931)

My money is on the first. I want to see a program cracking my nicely encrypted email

Re:Encryption VS Deep Packet Inspection (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494013)

I want to see a program cracking my nicely encrypted email

Be careful what you wish for. I don't think any of the common encryption methods are very reliable any more (anyone know what REALLY is?) Either way, chances are your encryption has been undermined by some random (IT or non-IT) thing you got careless about ten years ago when you were drunk and had some woman (or stress or depression or just about anything else) on your mind. Also, it's questionable whether even the best encryption isn't within governments' cracking abilities, and you just invited them to give it a shot.

Re:Encryption VS Deep Packet Inspection (2, Interesting)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494065)

If they really are going to try to crack every email , it would be fun to send a highly encrypted email , containg only large amounts of gibberish , to a friend everyday.

Then they would spend hours or days decrypting it , only to see a message , which they think might be a sort of encryption as well.
They might try to construct a real message from it.

Could be fun

Re:Encryption VS Deep Packet Inspection (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494141)

Attach a bunch of encrypted truly random data to every mail you send. It would be unbreakable, yet almost impossible to prove it's not simply very good encryption. They're then faced with the problem of either white listing everything you send, or getting a pile of unbreakable crap stacking up with no way to easily sort out which, if any, of the mails contain anything they're even remotely interested in.

Re:Encryption VS Deep Packet Inspection (2, Insightful)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494589)

If they really are going to try to crack every email , it would be fun to send a highly encrypted email , containg only large amounts of gibberish , to a friend everyday.

Sounds like a great way to get them to harass and investigate your friend. Your goal to drain their resources will just give them legitimacy to switch to more invasive tactics.

If they cannot break your code, they just might break the legs of someone who can.

Re:Encryption VS Deep Packet Inspection (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494687)

That's not how you do it. You send a message from one anonymous ad-hoc email account to another saying that the bomb is at (insert main evil bad guy)'s sister's house.

There is more to it (2, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494107)

For now, AES remains impossible to directly crack. "Directly" being the operative word -- cryptography systems involving AES can be cracked through various other means. You start sending encrypted mail, and the first thing I will do is see if I can get a keystroke logger on your computer, perhaps a hardware unit that I install in your keyboard. If I cannot do that, I'll see if I can perform a side channel attack -- perhaps I can install a microphone near your computer to measure the vibrations caused by power fluctuations, or maybe I can find a way to hide an antenna and measure the EM emissions.

Don't get me wrong, cryptography would help the Iranians a lot, but it is not a silver bullet. High profile targets would need to be wary of side channel attacks and other attempts to break their crypto, but even low level targets would be risking their lives. The very use of cryptography could be enough to get an Iranian thrown in prison, especially if it becomes known that cryptography is being used to evade government filters to send news of the protests to foreigners.

Re:Encryption VS Deep Packet Inspection (1)

Calydor (739835) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494173)

That might work here in our peaceful countries, where you can argue that most encrypted traffic is (probably) legal.

In Iran, they'd simply set the filter to auto-block anything that looks encrypted, and log originating IP. Encryption would be self-incrimination in those circumstances.

Re:Encryption VS Deep Packet Inspection (1)

fedcb22 (1215744) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494223)

How exactly do you define something that looks encrypted? As mentioned before good encryption should be indistinguishable from random data, so are they going to block all data that looks random? Heck, how do you define 'looks random'?

Re:Encryption VS Deep Packet Inspection (1)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494957)

gzip (among others) is your friend. If it doesn't compress, it is random.

Besides, who sends random data around? If it isn't a picture, text, music, movie or program, it is suspect. Statistical analysis will identify these in a heartbeat.

So, yes. They just block all data that looks random.

Re:Encryption VS Deep Packet Inspection (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28495049)

You define the randomness of data by how compressible it is, duh. That's how everyone does it.

But, anyway, the Iranians would just block all ports but HTTP and SMTP, and put proxies on them so you can only use plaintext connections.

This wouldn't stop all encrypted stuff, you could still connect somewhere and POST encrypted uuencoded content via HTTP, but it would make it a good deal harder.

Javascript can actually do that encryption, so it's possible to make an utterly transparent-to-the-end-user forum that generates a per-session public key, and then sends and receives all data on that website encrypted to that key.

Of course, it's very susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks. Although there are ways to make that more difficult...it could vary the encryption per-page, thus making the attacker actually run the Javascript on their machine, instead of writing a program to automatically decode.

Then, once the attacker is running the javascript themselves, the encryption key can start including things like the browser user agent and the IP of the browser, meaning the attacker would have to either rewrite the javascript before they could run it (Hard to do in anything near real time.), or they would have to get their own hacked javascript interpreter.

Either one of those feats is probably past Iran's technical abilities at this moment.

Of course. (1, Insightful)

James_Duncan8181 (588316) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493933)

The problem with most net communication is that it is built with the assumption that the governments that it passes through are fundamentally friendly to the citizenry. Once DPI exists it is perfectly possible to just ban encrypted traffic to anything but a white list of banking sites etc, and then one has created a system where every letter can be read. It can be the perfect police state, and probably will be.

Stenography is probably the only answer to this, but the traffic patterns are still recorded so once the government concerned becomes aware that the receiver is hostile to them they can follow that social network back. It's not just Google who can work out probable friends of yours automatically. The other issue is that once you introduce higher technical barriers, the ability of the public to use the communication falls rapidly. Joe Protester probably can't set up stenography in the first place; most of the Iranian videos were emailed or went up via Youtube.

This is leaving aside how locked down Palladium computers could affect this issues in the future. The West of the internet is no longer very wild.

Re:Of course. (1)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494027)

so once the government concerned becomes aware that the receiver is hostile to them they can follow that social network back. It's not just Google who can work out probable friends of yours automatically.

In which case, all communication must be done using chain letters or multi-casting, so that the intended recepient is never unique.

Re:Of course. (1)

James_Duncan8181 (588316) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494083)

Or twitter proxies, in fact. But you still have to find a way to tell the sender who to send to - any reciever (whether final destination or mere relay) has to advertise themselves to the sender, and thus also to the intelligence services. Also, to get information out of the country any eventual sender must send traffic through the choke point (saving satcomms, but that doesn't scale). And at that point I can DPI for key words.

Re:Of course. (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494203)

Once DPI exists it is perfectly possible to just ban encrypted traffic to anything but a white list of banking sites etc, and then one has created a system where every letter can be read.

And exactly how are you going to ban 'encrypted traffic' . There is no way to define what encrypt traffic looks like , that's one off the advantages of encryption.
The test 'In Russia , mails read the government' , could be a slashdot meme , but it could also mean something entirely different , as you could replace the words with completely different data.

Re:Of course. (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494311)

" There is no way to define what encrypt traffic looks like "

Sure there is: it looks like white noise. If you are scanning through packets, and you suddenly come across something that looks like noise, you can just drop it. We are not talking about secret codes that kids use when they are in kindergarden, we are talking about AES and similar ciphers, which are designed to have output that is as close to random noise as possible.

That is the weak point of cryptography: it is still very obvious that you are communicating, and worse, it is very obvious that you are using encryption (which is actually an information leak, depending on context: unless you encrypt everything, using crypto is like putting a giant sign on your forehead that says, "I HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE").

Re:Of course. (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494405)

That's only if you use conventional encryption , and don't think about it further.
You could easily modify encryption to spout out words instead of pure binary data . It will just make the mail longer.

You can even change do it in a way where it looks like it's a common sentence , but in reality , contains encrypted data.

Re:Of course. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494639)

Then you'd have to white list a fair lot, or a lot of standard services we all love to use on the internet will cease to exist. MMOs encrypt their traffic to make it harder to write bots and other automatons. Skype uses a fairly nonstandard protocol, similar rules apply to other VoIP tools. And let's not even talk about various DRMified video streams.

You'll notice that they all are "somehow" encrypted, mangled, modified and nonstandard. Want to whitelist them all? Or block them?

Re:Of course. (1)

eddy (18759) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494359)

I don't know where you got the idea that you can't block encrypted traffic. It's not like you really even need a distinguishing attack, just block all high-entropy content. Sure, some merely compressed content will get caught aswell, but so what? Even if you allow it though if there's some known signature (PK, RAR, JFIF, etc), you have a system which only a few hundred people in the country will have the capability to penetrate, and when they do, they're effectively excluded from the 'mass market' (your twitter, facebook, youtube, etc).

1. Block ports used for encrypted traffic (ports 22,443), or only allow whitelisted ports.

2. Block protocols when they expose encryption negotiation (STARTTLS, DHKE in instant messaging, etc), or all protocols that aren't whitelisted

3. Block HTTP/SMTP with encryption signatures (PGP/GPG blocks)

4. Block non-whitelisted high entropy connections.

What you're left with is steganography, and that's astrology to cryptologys astronomy.

Re:Of course. (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494471)

I don't know where you got the idea that you can't block encrypted traffic. It's not like you really even need a distinguishing attack, just block all high-entropy content. Sure, some merely compressed content will get caught aswell, but so what? Even if you allow it though if there's some known signature (PK, RAR, JFIF, etc), you have a system which only a few hundred people in the country will have the capability to penetrate, and when they do, they're effectively excluded from the 'mass market' (your twitter, facebook, youtube, etc).

1. Block ports used for encrypted traffic (ports 22,443), or only allow whitelisted ports.

2. Block protocols when they expose encryption negotiation (STARTTLS, DHKE in instant messaging, etc), or all protocols that aren't whitelisted

3. Block HTTP/SMTP with encryption signatures (PGP/GPG blocks)

4. Block non-whitelisted high entropy connections.

What you're left with is steganography, and that's astrology to cryptologys astronomy.

You are under the false impression that clear text protocols can't be used to send encrypted messages over.
Encryption has nothing to do with the protocols used to transfer it from one place to another.

I can put some encrypted message right into a mail, without there being any signature in it.

As for high-entropy content , it's just a matter of making the content look less random. Just put some fake structure in it , which makes it look like normal content.

Re:Of course. (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 4 years ago | (#28495061)

And exactly how are you going to ban 'encrypted traffic' . There is no way to define what encrypt traffic looks like , that's one off the advantages of encryption.

Of course you can define what encrypt traffic looks like, if you don't mind false positives. You do statistical analysis, and anything that doesn't look like plain English -- or in this case, Farsi -- text, is banned. If you want to allow images, you can perform similar analysis, and have a group of your minions spot-check the intercepted traffic for anything that looks suspicious, and then go beat the living shit out of the sender.

Yes, this doesn't prevent coded messages or steganography, but it sure cuts down the communications bandwidth available to your opponents. If you have to distribute a code book to communicate, you're at a big handicap.

The best digital communications available to a resistance movement would be dial-up, point-to-point, like the old FidoNet BBS systems. Maybe with pre-paid cell phones instead of dial-up lines...

Pile'o'poop article (0)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493937)

If you have access to a computer, a net connect, and encryption then you have a better tool for communication than in any other era. Comparisons with Nazi Germany be damned.
If you don't have one of the above, you have much bigger problems to worry about than YRO.

Re:Pile'o'poop article (3, Informative)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493995)

'Compare that with East Germany, in which the Stasi managed to tap, at most, about 100,000 phone lines -- a gargantuan task that required 2,000 full-time technicians to monitor the calls,'

Comparisons with Nazi Germany be damned.

American much? [suite101.com]

Would you like a map and such as?

Re:Pile'o'poop article (0, Offtopic)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494159)

Ok, so I didn't read the summary at all, opened and skimmed the articles in separate tabs, and also caught the tag godwin out of the corner of my eye, which of course refers to nazi Germany. But it was peripheral to my point really.
I'm not even American, but nice stereotype, given that this site has a very wide readership.

Your post has elements of flamebait, troll and offtopic, so it will be interesting to see which way it goes.

Re:Pile'o'poop article (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494683)

Fuck you, you piece of shit. I wipe my ass with your face.

"only a few...pictures and videos getting through" (4, Insightful)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493943)

For now. I suspect large proportions of recorded materials will find their way out sooner or later.

Might not help this revolution, perhaps the next one...

Re:"only a few...pictures and videos getting throu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494125)

For now. I suspect large proportions of recorded materials will find their way out sooner or later.

Might not help this revolution, perhaps the next one...

This is not a revolution. There is nothing really to see here. Eventually the protests will stop.

The alternative is no technology (2, Insightful)

msgmonkey (599753) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493967)

you see the regime would love there to be no communications but they have to since young Iranians demand it. From what I can tell Iranians put up with the controls on public appearence/behavior because atleast in private they have outlets such as the Internet to express themselves, now with this under control too if I was an Iranian I would feel even more frustrated that it is creeping into their private lives. Maybe the youth have been placated with Internet and mobile phones but I'm hoping that whatever the outcome people will realise that the small luxuries that they are allowed to have can and will be used against them which in the longer term can only cause more angst and dissent.

First in the USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28493981)

then in the UK, then in Iran - so it goes.

Ins't this obvious? (3, Informative)

emeitner (513842) | more than 4 years ago | (#28493989)

On with the tinfoil hats...and the cynical socks...

The power of technology from a government's perspective is to have the subjects of your suspicion(citizenry) freely and enthusiastically enter all their beliefs( micro/macro blogging), the topology of their personal relations(social networking sites), and their personal communications(gmail) into the databases of private corporations for the easy mining of the data by the keepers of all the keys(NSA, MI5, and others). Then is is a simple matter to assemble an n-dimentional database of relationships into a large net. Then they need only to pull a single knot(a person) of this net and see all others strings and knots which are pulled also. With this tool the government can intercept and neutralize any waxing movement, meme, or influential person.

...off with the tinfoil hat and back to my coffee.

Re:Ins't this obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494061)

They also made real tinfoil almost impossible to obtain by secretly forcing companies to sell an aluminum substitute.

Re:Ins't this obvious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494937)

You're keeping the socks on though because they're comfy.

The internet never forgets (5, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494091)

The classic mistake made by newbies (and slow learners) is to assume that stuff you put on the internet years ago somehow gets lost or forgotten.

It doesn't

Sadly some people in Iran, will learn this the hard way. When their security forces finally get around to processing all the blogs, tweets, SMS, emails, usenet posts, youtube videos, facebook entries and other permanent electronic records of comments they may have thought were innocent - or got caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment.

While it may only cost people in "free" countries a job offer or a place at university - these guys could end up paying with their lives.

In this case, the internet may have done more harm than good.

Re:The internet never forgets (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494153)

This must be the most insightful comment I've read in a long time...

Re:The internet never forgets (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494199)

And it may not only be the people inside Iran. I'm not sure what Iran's capabilities are for external intelligence operations, but I wouldn't be surprised if we don't hear about a few of these people outside Iran that were leading the charge to set up proxies have unfortunate accidents.

Re:The internet never forgets (3, Insightful)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494801)

Unless they are successful in a regime change. That is the whole point, no?

Re:The internet never forgets (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28495067)

what makes you think that they have not already considered the consequences of their internet postings?

anyone trying to overthrow a government and not expecting to get burned if it doesn't happen has a rather worrying detachment from reality - regardless of the medium of communication they choose to use.

going through all of the comments here (and with the original post, too) what is happening in Iran is merely an abstract idea to everyone here - no-one here has ever had to really fight for anything, and we just sit here and post crap about it

Re:The internet never forgets (1)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 4 years ago | (#28495101)

And it works in the past, too.

How many people in Iran in the past posted comments and sent messages that were well within acceptable norms five years ago, and they have forgotten all about. No one ever even said anything to them about them.

But the security forces have had, since then, them on a list of 'troublemakers', and the very first thing they did now was set up surveillance on them.

Duh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494115)

Three words: encryption!

too bad Facebook is not encrypted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494207)

Too bad Facebook doesn't give you https.

effectiveness (1)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494219)

The effects of this control have been seen over the past couple days, with only a few harrowing pictures and videos getting through Iran's closed net.

To properly judge the effects, you would have to know how many do not get through. If you're seing 100, but only 200 were sent, the effectiveness of the filter is 50%. But if 1000 were sent, it is 90%. You can't judge without knowing the second data point.

So maybe the filter effectively, or maybe the unrest isn't as large as the west makes it. Don't forget that the USA already staged a coup in Iran within the life time of many of us here. Who says the reporting about unrest and revolution is entirely true? It only takes ten people or so to fake a few hundred twitter accounts, youtube videos, etc.

Movie hint: "Wag The Dog"

not much different (3, Interesting)

Tom (822) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494285)

It just struck me how little difference there is between the rulers of Iran and our own.

Here in Germany, they just passed a law to censor the Internet wrt "child porn". A party leader held a speech yesterday essentially telling the citizens that they suck and should participate more in politics (and yet when they do, as with the record signatures petition against the child porn censorship law, they get ignored). Essentially, reminding me of Brecht who once said "If the people aren't to the liking of parliament, why doesn't parliament simply dissolve the people and elect a new one?"

Seems that people in power around the world share the same priorities. Most importantly: Staying in power and having control comes first. Everything else is secondary to that.

Maybe in a thousand years we'll look back at the early 21st century and shake our heads at how those ancient, primitive people could still have believed in government, states and the whole power structures. At least I hope that future generations will find better ways to govern themselves.

Hack Iran (1)

catmistake (814204) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494485)

These 'bottlenecks' are in the DMZ, so why not just infiltrate them... and open them wide??? Could Iran's cybersecurity be all that great?

The fault, dear slashdot, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494511)

lies not in our technology, but in ourselves.

If everyone sits around passively waiting for technology to bring them a better world, they will be disappointed.

Embassy Wi-fi? (2, Insightful)

sparkydevil (261897) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494559)

Is it really that difficult for foreign embassies to create huge unfiltered Wi-fi spots that cover the city?

Re:Embassy Wi-fi? (2, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#28495027)

A very easy way to get your embassy closed down and all your staff thrown out of a country ios to go messing with that country's sovereignty. While you might think they're wrong and you're right - that does not give you (or any other government) the right to interfere in their internal affairs. How would you like it if the Iranian embassy in your country decided you weren't "islamic" enough and started broadcasting religious programmes all over your radio and TV channels? What you're suggesting is the exact same thing, in principle.

troll subject (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 4 years ago | (#28494785)

So "only a few harrowing accounts" have got through the blocks. If there were such a block in place it can't be very good then can it. Maybe the reason there are only a few, is because there are only a few anyway. I see more violence in the city centre on a friday night.

Wake Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#28494819)

If you havent been paying attention in the last 5 years, our Government has that system already in place here, but to a much more powerful degree.
America: Home of the (they think they are) Free.

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