Iran and India, control and monitoring of networks

Pierluigi Paganini January 07, 2013

The news is circulating for days, the Iranian head of the national security forces , Esmail Ahmadi Moghadam, declared that low enforcement  of the country is developing a software for “smart control” of social-networking sites, the authorities have understood that the control of the powerful platforms is more important filtering.

Moghadam exposed the consideration made by the Supreme Council of Cyberspace, the entity that is controlled by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and brings together other top Iranian officials, including the intelligence chief and the head of the Revolutionary Guards.

“The smart control of social-networking sites not only prevents their harm, but also allows people to benefit from their useful parts,”   

The Iranian government seems to open to social network platform, confirmed also by the creation of a Facebook page devoted to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

This is an important step according intelligence community, Iranian cyber units are ready to adopt social network platforms to spy on citizens and to monitor interferences from foreign countries, in the past the control was eluded in many cases thanks the use of anonymizing networks such as TOR. In the following graph is reported the number of daily directly connecting users from Iran, a country that is in the Top-10 countries by directly connecting users.




Iranian officials have started a campaign to warn citizens on the use of social networks, accused to be the spokesman of Western ideology that could destabilize the countries and its young generation, an approach totally wrong that led the institutions to an afterthought.

Thanks to a brave use of social networks the Iranian intelligence have recently identified and arrested many activist that expressed the dissent against the President and its politics using the social network platform, famous the case of the blogger Sattar Beheshti died last year in custody after its arrest.

In the same our principal Indian telecom companies, including Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Tata Tele services, have agreed to allow to Indian Government the real-time wiretapping of BlackBerry calls and data connection on their networks. In reality the story is old, since 2011 Indian government  made pressure on principal foreign IT company operating in the country to provide a backdoor in their solutions to facilitate interceptions.

Research In Motion (RIM), the manufacturer of BlackBerry, has been directed to provide the resolution and web-browsing needs of the BlackBerry Internet Services. This is to be done in discussion with concerned service providers and law interception organizations.

Last October The Ministry for Home Affairs ordered interception of 10,000 phones and 1300 email accounts and wiretapping activities were also related to about 700 overseas connections, and this is just the tip of the iceberg according security experts because several bureau operate in the same way for various purposes.

I wanted to mention two very different contexts, two different political situations and different way to exercise the monitoring of communications, for now, and I mean for now, the effect of the control is quite different but none can predict the future. There is a thin line between monitoring and control and the increasing interest in these activities by governments is worrying, freedom of expression is exposed to concrete risks especially in those countries where totalitarian regimes intends to use technology to suppress the dissent and the voice of the opposition.

Pierluigi Paganini

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