Report: Iran Uses Huawei Gear to Snoop on Citizens
Today in international tech news: Huawei is called out for its sales pitch to Iran, some recommendations from China get support from a UN-sponsored summit, the UK takes a website off its file-sharing blacklist, and YouTube is still blocked in Afghanistan -- and people there don't really mind so much.
12/06/12 10:18 AM PT
Foreign telecommunications companies, including China-based Huawei, have helped Iran collect incredibly detailed data on its citizens' telephone and Internet use, Reuters reported.
According to an investigative report, a partner of Huawei offered to sell the "Huawei-developed 'Lawful Interception Solution'" to MobinNet, Iran's first wireless broadband provider. The system could monitor real-time communications between subscribers, giving Iran a powerful tool to snoop on potential dissidents.
Huawei gave a PowerPoint presentation to MobiNet on a system designed to analyze data traveling across the Internet, Reuters also reported. The system utilized deep packet inspection, or DPI, which is a tool Internet service providers use to protect against cyberattacks, but which can also be used to block sites, track users and reconstruct emails.
Huawei denies ever selling such technology to MobinNet. MobinNet did indeed obtain Huawei DPI equipment, but it is unclear how MobinNet obtained it, Reuters reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.
Reuters reported in March that China's ZTE Corp sold DPI-based technology to Iran that was capable of snooping on landlines, mobile phones and the Internet.
Recommendations from China Adopted at UN Summit
"Confidential recommendations" proposed by China were adopted at a summit being held by the International Telecommunications Union, or ITU, which is part of the United Nations.
According to Cnet, the recommendations would help network providers target BitTorrent users and detect file-sharing of copyrighted MP3s. However, critics argue that the recommendations would also facilitate censorship.
Germany was reportedly among the loudest detractors, warning that the ITU shouldn't standardize measures that could be used to censor the Web or "impede the free flow of information and ideas."
The recommendations in question have not yet been made public. However, Cnet reports that they relate to deep packet inspection, which, as mentioned above, can be used to snoop on electronic communications.
It is unclear how measures adopted at the ITU conference, taking place in Dubai, will -- or won't -- affect future UN legislation regarding the Internet.
YouTube Still Blocked in Afghanistan
People in Afghanistan are in no hurry to lift the block on YouTube more than two month after the government banned the site because of the infamous anti-Islam video.
According to The New York Times, the "common reaction" to the YouTube ban is praise -- and at worst ambivalence. This ethos goes even for young people in the capital of Kabul.
The government banned YouTube after the company declined to remove the video. Despite misgivings about restricting freedom of speech, "in this case, censorship worked," and "almost certainly saved lives," The Times noted.
Facebook Billionaire Eyes China
Alisher Usmanov, the 59-year-old Russian who banked more than US$1 billion by investing in Facebook, is shifting his focus to China.
According to Bloomberg, Usmanov, who ranks as Russia's richest man, believes that valuations for U.S. tech companies are "too high to justify making new investments." Bloomberg quotes Ivan Streshinskiy, the CEO of the company that manages Usmanov's assets, who says that China's sheer size makes it a better bet: even "something small for China" can be enormous.
Hence, Usmanov has decided to invest some of his $17.2 billion in Chinese e-commerce outfits Alibaba Holding Group and 360buy.
UK ISPs Remove Block on Pirate Clone
Internet service providers in the UK have been told they can stop blocking promobay.org, a site that had been associated with The Pirate Bay.
According to the BBC, PromoBay does not contain any links to illegally shared content and thus doesn't belong on the UK's expanding list of banned sites.
The block reportedly came about in the first place because PromoBay had linked directly to The Pirate Bay, which was, is and will remain banned by British ISPs.