In 2012, these five countries were listed by Reporters Without Borders as “Internet Enemies” for having heavily-monitored internet. Many of them were also cited for having heavy censorship.
Vietnam is a country of which, in the midst of rapid urbanization, has an internet usership rate of a third of its population. Vietnam’s Internet infrastructure is run by 16 providers, most of which are directly or indirectly control by its Communistic Government. Its top provider, controlling about 75% of the market, is a subsidiary of the nation’s government-run Ministry of Communications. One provider is owned by the Armed Forces; others, which are private, rely on the government for funding and technology.
Many websites in Vietnam are blocked, most of which are user-generated content, including both foreign and domestic blogs. Some providers even block social networking sites, such as Facebook, which has caused many citizens to acquire software to counteract censorship. However, more alarming is its surveillance methodology. Subscribers to telephone or internet service must register their personal information with the Vietnam Internet Network information Center, which prohibits explicit content, radical viewpoints, and propaganda. Any violation of its code is punishable for prison time and large fines. Internet cafes are also regulated, and browser logs of patrons are often stored. The Internet provisions are enforced by the Ministry of Public Security, as well as a secret “cyber-army” of 80,000.
Bahrain has some of the best internet coverage in the Middle East, and a usership rate of 77%. However, it is also one of the most censored and monitored, perhaps due to recent cyberattacks, which, coincidentally, may have been provoked by the government. A great amount of web content is unavailable, including pornography and explicit sites. Malware, disguised as media related to human rights, has attacked many servers. Some of it has been found to be from Federal sources, which has used Facebook and Twitter to obtain IP addresses and personal information.
In addition, there is close networking of mobile networks. Authorities can directly search through mobile data or track down subscribers, sometimes after Tweets containing “questionable material” are posted. Some people have been interrogated, having to explain their social networking habits and even giving away their passwords. The leading Internet Service Provider is Batelco, which is run by the royal family. All citizens must have contingency with the laws of the Information Affairs Authority, which is headed both by a government minster and the royal family.
Iran has a very sophisticated internet infrastructure. Iranian internet use has a 33% participation rate, and many use it to obtain news media. The network is monitored very closely. When protest threats are imminent, the government actually slows down the connection speed. Many websites are blocked, and not just political opposition and independent news websites; also many entertainment websites that are deemed to be “out of the line”. There have been many cyber-attacks upon Iran’s Nuclear Weapon servers. Therefore, there is a new Internet Service being created known as the “Halal Internet”, which will have emails, search engines, and social networks developed under control of the government. The government also plans to reduce the network’s connection speed and increase subscription cost.
Internet providers much obtain a specific license from the Telecommunication Company of Iran. Filtering is done by keywords, blacklists, URLs, and IP addresses in areas that are prone to protest. The government monitors both foreign and domestic sites, and has been especially cracking down on Twitter and Facebook. They have used tools such as Deep Packet Inspection, which tracks browser history and analyzes email content. Recently, due to the privatization of internet providers and uprise in user-generated content, the authorities created the Supreme Council for Cyberspace.
The Syrian Internet Network is comprised of both the Syrian Computer Society (SCS) and the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE). SCS controls many of the mobile networks, while STE controls many fixed connections. In 1999, there was a government document calling for a National Internet System, which had monitoring capabilities of hundreds of users at once, six monitoring terminals, and data recording/storage of all VoIP, email, web, chat and news. Emailing, chat functions, and web pages were to have sampling capabilities.
The Syrian government has monitored many web conversations, and made many arrests. The government has allegedly purchased proxies by a company known as Blue Coat Systems. The government has supported spyware, malware, and phishing techniques to track IP addresses and information.
The mother of all Communist governments, it is no surprise that its Internet use is heavily regulated. There are four national networks: CTNEy, Chinanet, Cernet, and CHINAGBN, all of which are owned by the state. In addition, the three major national service providers, China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile, are also controlled by the state. Corporations are entitled to public internet access. With a user rate of 42.1%, China’s internet usage is by far the highest in the world. There are five governmental departments involved with censoring and monitoring the web.
There is also a system known as the Great Firewall which provides VPN services. It has the ability to block encrypted connections. Monitoring is also built into social networks, chat, and VoIP, which is the responsibility of private companies. There is an application known as QQ, which is basically a Trojan Horse, seeking certain keywords and expressions on chat. All bloggers are required to register their own names and phone numbers. There are also regulations of how long certain websites can be used.
There is a clear economic impact associated with China’s web surveillance. There is a great effect on competitiveness, because monitoring their own websites are an extra cost to web services. There was a popular Chinese platform, known as GitHub, that hosted open-source software and libraries of code. On it was a list published of people who contributed code to the Great Firewall, which led the Chinese government to block access to the list. Later, it was revealed that a third party member was impersonating the site, and a warning was shown. Anyone who proceeded had their IP address recorded and their passwords intercepted. The Chinese government has been known to cyber-attack many American companies, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and CNN.
A video talking about China’s recent crackdown on VPN’s.
- How to Make Wireless Internet Faster? (deccanwifi.wordpress.com)
- Web censorship: the net is closing in (guardian.co.uk)
- Coordinated Attacks Against the U.S. Government and Banking Infrastructure (blogs.cisco.com)