Iran Cracks Down On VPNS

Reports have appeared in the media stating that Iran is getting ready to come down on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) that allow Iran’s citizens to go around Internet restrictions. The regime has curbed freedom on the net by placing restriction on several sites through its cyber police. Users have circumvented these road blocks by employing VPNs that encrypt data through secure protocol and avoid detection by the authorities. Kamal Hadianfar, the head of the special cyber police, stated that only “airlines, ministries, (state) organizations and banks” would be allowed to access VPN’s.

According to the reports, approximately seven million people, or 20 to 30 percent of the web users in Iran, utilize VPN’s. These users are a problem for the authorities because the state wishes to control what their citizens view online. The authorities in Iran have previously moved to stop users accessing websites like Facebook, Twitter and news outlets like BBC. They have also tried to prevent users from connecting with torrent sites, blogs and pornographic websites. All these websites and services are considered to be against the values of the Islamic regime in Iran and considered dangerous for the population.

Many observers believe the renewed interest in restriction was started after the controversial re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During and after the election cycle many anti-government rallies and protests were put together online using popular social networking and micro-blogging sites based outside of Iran. To further restricted access the country is planning to create a controlled “Islamic Internet”. The Telecommunications Ministry of Iran may have taken the first step towards this goal when it directed all banks to switch from foreign email services to ones ending in .ir because these domains were under the Iranian authority’s control. Other moves slowing down the speed of VPN or blocking access to foreign emails services.

The authority’s restrictions have been viewed in a negative light by most internet freedom activists and also by some people within the government. They believe that the over arching restrictions can hurt merchants who use the internet to trade with over sees clients and businesses.

On the other hand, this measure may also be a step to combat security issues of highest level, i.e. the recent flame virus attack and other US state sponsored software attacks.

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