Iran Blocks More Websites Ahead Of Elections

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The Iranian government expands its programme of web censorship ahead of March elections

The Iranian government has blocked all encrypted websites located outside of the country that depend on the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol.

Earlier this month, the Iranian government began blocking sites that have an address which starts with “https”, rendering many email and social networking sites unavailable. It looks like it has expanded its programme of censorship and there are fears that the level of surveillance on ordinary citizens might increase further.

Expanded programme

The recent wave of Internet censorship started on 9 February with Google and YouTube among those made unavailable. Access was temporarily restored on 13 February and this latest operation is also blocking Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which many Iranians depend on to circumvent the government’s firewall.

Tor, a project to help anonymise Internet traffic, reported that the Iranian government was taking a three pronged approach to this recent blackout, including “deep packet inspection (DPI) of SSL traffic, selective blocking of IP Address and TCP port combinations, and some keyword filtering.”

Of course, the point of HTTPS connections is in the fact that they transfer encrypted content, something which has irritated the Iranian government. According to Reuters, Iranians have had to deal with an increasing number of obstacles to using the Internet since opposition supporters used social networking to organise protests after the disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The government denied any fraud in the vote, which ignited large-scale street protests that lasted eight months and Iran is preparing to hold the first national parliamentary election since 2009 on 2 March.

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