Canadian Tech Company Fingered In Helping To Suppress Free & Open Access To The Internet In Syria, Egypt & Turkey

Do you live in Syria, Egypt or Turkey, or some part of the world where the Internet isn’t a free and open as it should be. If so, you might want to read this story from the CBC that details research from Citizen Lab that shows that using gear sourced from a Canadian company called Sandvine is being used to redirect Internet users in those countries towards spyware and malware, but also keep an eye on the activities of those Internet users and block their access to sites that the countries in question don’t want anyone to see:

Since last fall, Turkish internet users attempting to download one of a handful of popular apps may have been the unwitting targets of a wide-reaching computer surveillance campaign.

And in Egypt, users across the country have, seemingly at random, had their browsing activity mysteriously redirected to online money-making schemes.

Internet filtering equipment sold by technology company Sandvine — founded in Waterloo, Ont. — is believed to have played a significant part in both.

That’s according to new research from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which has examined misuse of similar equipment from other companies in the past. The researchers say it’s likely that Sandvine devices are not only being used to block the websites of news, political and human rights organizations, but are also surreptitiously redirecting users toward spyware and unwanted ads.

Using network-filtering devices to sneak spyware onto targets’ computers “has long been the stuff of legends” according to the report — a practice previously documented in leaked NSA documents and spyware company brochures, the researchers say, but never before publicly observed.

“When you have this middlebox which is capable of filtering and modifying people’s internet traffic, pretty much the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can do,” said Bill Marczak, one of the authors of the report.

As a Canadian citizen, I have to admit that I am disturbed that Canadian tech (that’s owned by an American company) is being used this way. But at the same time I am not surprised as Sandvine has been used by Comcast to throttle Internet traffic and they’ve tried to argue in front of the CRTC that this is a good thing. Thus it is entirely plausible that their gear is being used for this purpose because from a technical standpoint, it’s not a great leap. Now interestingly Sandvine has disputed the report and threatened to sue those behind it. Which suggests to me that perhaps they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar so to speak. Hopefully the Canadian and/or US Government is watching this and asks Sandvine some really tough questions as to who it sells its gear to and if they are aware what it is being used for.


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