Threats to the Open Net: June 15, 2012

  • On Thursday, the UK Home Department released a draft of the Communications Bill. Home Secretary Theresa May defended the bill saying, “If we stand by as technology changes, we will leave police officers fighting crime with one hand tied behind their backs.” However, civil liberty groups and ISPs have voiced concern over the controversial bill, which extends the type of data that internet service providers must retain, including use of social network sites, webmail, voice calls over the internet, and gaming. Although content will not be recorded, many argue that knowing where a person has been online is equally intrusive.
  • The Ethiopian government passed new legislation that criminalizes the use of Internet-based voice communications such as Skype and other forms of Internet phone calling, saying that these posed a threat to the state’s monopoly on telephone communications. This new development came only two weeks after Ethiopia’s only ISP, state-owned Ethio-Telecom, installed a system using Deep Packet Inspection to block access to the Tor network, which lets users anonymously access and browse blocked sites. More information about Ethiopia's Deep Packet Inspection can be found here.
  • As Iran’s cyber police prepared for a new crackdown on Iranian VPNs, information was released tying Flame, a new virus designed as a weapon of espionage, to the U.S. government. An early analysis of Flame by the Kaspersky Lab in Russia made a connection between Flame and Stuxnet, another computer bug suspected of targeting Iranian nuclear efforts. It is unclear by how much the cyberattack has undermined the Iranian nuclear program and how this new development will affect subsequent negotiations with Iran. More information about Stuxnet and Flame can be found here.
  • Google employee Tim Bray proposed an HTTP status code for censorship after Terence Eden noticed that some ISPs were using a 403 code for censorship and argued that this was technically inappropriate. The proposed code 451 Unavailable for Legal Reasons must undergo the IETF review process before being approved as a standard. More information can be found here.

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