News / Middle East

Iran Plans Its Own Sanitized Internet with Chinese Help

A Farsi text alerts a computer screen alerts an Internet user trying to log onto social networking site Facebook in Tehran that access to this site is not possible, May 25, 2009 photo.
A Farsi text alerts a computer screen alerts an Internet user trying to log onto social networking site Facebook in Tehran that access to this site is not possible, May 25, 2009 photo.
Iran, with a little help from China, is putting together its own closed version of the Internet to keep its citizens from viewing material it considers unsuitable. Experts say the project is struggling and unlikely to work.
 
The project, begun a few years ago, is driven by concerns over national security as well as censorship, according to Mahmoud Enayat, director of Small Media, a London-based organization that works to increase the flow of information in closed societies.
 
Enayat says the Iranian government concluded that it was facing security threats whenever its government and banking information moved on the Internet through computer servers outside the country.
 
“So what they started doing was to build infrastructure inside Iran. So that allows them to keep the traffic internally; and also they can manage it,” Enayat said.
 
Around 90 percent of the government’s websites have already been moved onto Iranian-based servers, according to Freedom House research analyst Adrian Shahbaz.
 
“There is no doubt the Iranian government has been looking to other repressive countries, such as China, as a model and even vendor for the sort of sophisticated hardware and software controls that it needs to maintain strict control over how Iranians use the Internet,” said Shahbaz.
 
And Eva Galperin, an analyst with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in California, says Iran appears to be copying the Chinese model of creating native tools and social networks similar to Weibo, China’s Twitter counterpart. “But it turns out that building these services is very hard.”
 
Iran, a nation under international economic and political sanctions, faces special difficulties in buying the equipment and expertise to deploy sophisticated systems that can provide the security and control it is seeking for online communications. As a workaround, Shahbaz said Iranians are trying to build many of their own surveillance systems from scratch and pirating software demonstration versions to tailor them to their needs.
 
Chinese Suppliers
 
Some equipment is still being acquired clandestinely, said Enayat. But more often, he said the hardware comes from Chinese companies or proxy companies in Malaysia or Thailand.
 
“No Western companies sell this equipment to Iran because … there’s been enough pressure by the Western governments on Western companies that sell these things,” Enayat said. “The Chinese is where the problem is still there. And actually the Chinese government doesn’t care. The companies themselves, because of fear of losing business in the U.S., have slowed it down, but they haven’t shut it down completely.”
 
But Galperin notes that while there is evidence that Iran is using Chinese networking hardware in its project, the extent of Chinese help is still unclear.

The company logo of ZTE is seen through a wooden fence on a glass door in Beijing, April 18, 2013.The company logo of ZTE is seen through a wooden fence on a glass door in Beijing, April 18, 2013.
x
The company logo of ZTE is seen through a wooden fence on a glass door in Beijing, April 18, 2013.
The company logo of ZTE is seen through a wooden fence on a glass door in Beijing, April 18, 2013.
One example of Chinese assistance came to light last year, according to Shahbaz, when it was learned that China’s ZTE company had signed a contract with Iran to provide more than $130 million in surveillance and interception equipment. He said a there was also a 2010 deal for China to sell Iran “deep packet inspection” technologies that could monitor Internet communications.
 
All of this, Shahbaz said, is designed to enable Iran to set up its internal Internet services and crack down on access to regular Internet services.
 
The internal network is also designed to prevent Iranians from surfing the Internet, even the internal one, anonymously.
 
Clampdown on Anonymous surfing
 
“All Internet Protocol [IP] addresses are going to need to be registered, and that’s going to make it easy to identify who is looking at what websites at any given time,” Shahbaz said.
 
And Enayat notes that Tehran is looking to block access to commercial tools and services that large numbers of Iranians have already used to bypass filtering of websites such as Facebook and YouTube.
 
That is exactly what happened ahead of the June presidential election, said Galperin, when authorities turned off some of the Internet’s encrypted communications to make secure browsing more difficult.

“The control comes and goes and they can’t really manage a … sustained control. And this is not merely some sort of technical problem, but a social problem,” said Galperin. “If you stand between people and certain types of secure communications for too long, you’re going to get social unrest.”
 
Iran’s National Information Network project would create two internets: one based on domestic servers, the other a very slow and filtered international Internet.
 
“It’s going to force a lot of Iranians, whether they like it or not, to be using this clean version of the internet,” Shahbaz said. “And that’s going to consist of only pre-approved sites and products that the Iranian authorities will offer.”
 
But he cautioned that it will be very difficult to accomplish this “in a country where even the supreme leader [Ali Khamenei] has his own Twitter account.” 
 
President-elect Hassan Rouhani speaks with the media during a news conference in Tehran, June 17, 2013.President-elect Hassan Rouhani speaks with the media during a news conference in Tehran, June 17, 2013.
x
President-elect Hassan Rouhani speaks with the media during a news conference in Tehran, June 17, 2013.
President-elect Hassan Rouhani speaks with the media during a news conference in Tehran, June 17, 2013.
​Even the former Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had a Facebook page. And newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani has come out recently in favor of Facebook and said attempts to filter Internet access were futile, despite the fact that Facebook is blocked in the country and Internet filtering continues, said Galperin.
 
‘Soft War’ with the West
 
But whatever its leaders do in their personal Internet use, Shahbaz says Iran’s national policy is based on the view that it is in a “soft war” with the West and that Tehran is “looking to close itself off and build its national Internet - because it really sees itself as under attack in this ‘soft war.’”
 
Jeffrey Carr, an analyst with Taia Global, a cyber security corporation in Washington State, says there is a good reason Iranian leaders feel this way.

“There was a period of time when at least a half-a-dozen major cyber espionage tools were found on Iran’s networks,” Carr said. “So I think that that actually is a huge motivation for them to try to find ways to isolate their network.”
 
But despite its efforts, Carr says Iran’s network project is a poorly-thought out solution. “Iran still has to be connected to the outside world,” he said, and “so as long as it has those connections in place, it’s going to have its population attempting to utilize those connections for Internet access.”
 
Carr predicts that Iran will either back away from its project or have to modify it extensively.
 
“They’ll probably wind up with something akin to China’s great firewall, but that’s going to be it. I really don’t expect them to succeed in completely isolating the population from the Internet. You simply cannot remove yourself from the global Internet.”

You May Like

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: samad from: usa
August 01, 2013 3:02 AM
interesting....

However, When it comes to technology AND public communication services, all the governments are oppressive. The US government is basically collecting ALL calls and ALL internet traffic for analysis. The magnitude in how to measure the oppressiveness of any government in this area, will depend on your understanding of technology, your views of privacy, but most importantly your bias and prejudice toward the government in question.


by: roya from: ca
July 31, 2013 2:48 PM
America spies on Iranian citizens!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid