As part of its crackdown on free speech following last week’s rigged elections, Iran’s government is exerting unprecedented control over the country’s Internet communications. And to do that, it’s using products supplied by European companies.
Based on interviews with technology experts inside and outside Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that those pesky mullahs are carrying out deep packet inspection on a massive scale.
In addition to blocking or slowing Internet communication, deep packet inspection gathers information about users and can be used to alter the content of the communication itself—changing a “yes” to a “no,” for example—which may be more disruptive than shutting off Internet communication altogether.
The nefarious capabilities are there for the mullahs to use, courtesy of a JV between the German multinational, Siemens, and Nokia, a Finnish mobile phone provider.
According to spokesperson Ben Roome, the company installed a “monitoring center” within the Iran’s government-run telecom monopoly as part of a larger gig that included the installation of mobile-phone networks.
“If you sell networks, you also, intrinsically, sell the capability to intercept any communication that runs over them,” Roome told the Journal.
The Iranian government had briefly experimented with the Big Brother-like equipment in the run-up to last week’s travesty, but few people fully understood the system’s capabilities until its powers were unleashed in the face of escalating street protests.
Deep packet inspection involves the deconstruction and subsequent reconstitution of Internet data including email, Internet phone calls, and images and messages sent via social-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
It could explain why the mullahs allowed Iran’s Internet to function rather than shutting it down altogether, and why it has been running at glacial speed since things started getting out of hand.
Iran is “now drilling into what the population is trying to say,” Marshal8e6 director of technical strategy Bradley Anstis told the Journal. “This looks like a step beyond what any other country is doing, including China.”