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The Gaping Holes In the UAE's Net Firewall 107

Posted by timothy
from the dirty-dirty-holes dept.
Barence writes "The United Arab Emirates has its own Chinese-style firewall to weed out pornography and other 'unsavory' content. But as PC Pro's correspondent has found out, the firewall has more than a few holes in it. ISP helplines routinely suggest proxy server software that circumvents the filters. Access to Flickr is blocked, in case citizens' eyes should fall upon a naked buttock, but The Pirate Bay, which 'offers a range of bottoms to suit every need, including midget and donkey bottoms for anybody having a really slow afternoon – remains blissfully undisturbed.' 'Ultimately, I'm quite glad the UAE's authorities block websites, and thrilled that they're so inept at it,' concludes PC Pro's writer. 'Just like everybody in Dubai, all they've done is made me a master of internet chicanery.'" Guess that depends how closely they're watching the evaders.
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The Gaping Holes In the UAE's Net Firewall

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  • by Abstrackt (609015) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @10:20AM (#33498232)
    PC Pro obviously needs to be blocked to prevent people from finding out the firewall doesn't work!
  • Legal maneuvers (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rwa2 (4391) * on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @10:25AM (#33498276) Homepage Journal

    I doubt the firewall is there to block access to porn. What they really want is enforcement (harsh).

    Without the firewall, you might get away with the excuse that you happened upon the site by mistake, or via those corrupt western popup blockers.

    If you go through the trouble of setting up a proxy or some other means of circumvention, then they could probably use that information to show your willful intent to kill kittens or something.

    Having been to a few church weddings recently, it's apparent from the talk that marriage is just a way for religion to maintain control over something. And what better way than to control people than through the nookie supply? You get your nookie assigned to you through church or not at all. So it sort of stands to reason than religious groups are against prostitution or promiscuity or even just loose women... it pretty much cuts into their turf.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Having been to a few church weddings recently, it's apparent from the talk that marriage is just a way for religion to maintain control over something. And what better way than to control people than through the nookie supply?

      You don't have to go to church to get married, and no church has any power over you unless you're a member -- and even then, its power is extremely limited.

      And as to "nookie supply", there are woman who like multiple partners, and men who want monogamy for themselves. In fact, few men

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If you think churches/religions don't control what the state considers marriage, you're not paying enough attention.

        • In the US ? Or, for that matter, in any mostly Christian country ? No they don't.

          And let's not forget that the islamic punishment (for the woman only of course) of "providing nookie" is slowly getting stoned to death by a jeering crowd. There's a bit of a moral difference between the 2 religions here. But muslims get passes on just about everything, from slavery (just about all black slaves were exterminated in the middle east, this is just peachy, but in the US ... they were emancipated, horror of horrors.

          • Are you ignoring the fact that in the bible dozens of infractions call for the offenders to be stoned to death? And there are communities of barbaric Cristians out there actually enforcing them sometimes. No religion has a monopoly on atrocities. And there are many manifestations of sharia law. Most Muslims believe in a more moderate version then you are blathering about.
            • No I'm not.

              And about 2 religions being equal : let's just say that there is one religion whose founder is a rapist paedophilic slaver, thief and warmonger. Of course, we are to ignore that such little details are part of islam.

              After all, assuming that someone who say that this rapist paedophilic slaver is the example for mankind for all eternity might ... be saying that rape, thievery, paedophilia, slavery and worse is A-okay ...

              But what else could such a statement possibly mean ? Nothing ...

              Personally I ca

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      How is this insightful and not flame-bait?

      Yes, clearly all churches actively seek out forms of control. It can't possibly be that they feel that there is something sacred in the act of sexual expression. Nope, there can't possibly be any form of sacred or spiritual connection-- or at least the belief in such-- within sex via a religion. Nosiree-bob. None of that-there spiritualism or sacredness here. Just a form of control. Religions like to control people. That's what they do. They have no other mot

    • by infinite9 (319274) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @11:21AM (#33498772)

      Having been to a few church weddings recently, it's apparent from the talk that marriage is just a way for religion to maintain control over something. And what better way than to control people than through the nookie supply? You get your nookie assigned to you through church or not at all. So it sort of stands to reason than religious groups are against prostitution or promiscuity or even just loose women... it pretty much cuts into their turf.

      As a christian I can tell you that this is just plain wrong. (And people think we're nuts. :-/ ) Spiritual aspects aside, promoting monogamy and marriage is meant entirely as a way to maintain the health of both the people involved and the society in general. It's no different that suggesting that people not kill each other if you want to have a mentally and physically healthy society. If people get married and only have sex with this one person, all sorts of problems that plague society and individual people simply go away.

      • by Chalex (71702) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @11:46AM (#33498952) Homepage

        If people get married and only have sex with this one person, all sorts of problems that plague society and individual people simply go away.

        [citation needed]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rwa2 (4391) *

        Hey, that's cool... I think religion serves a very important role in community and society, and be a cherished part of a person's cultural background and upbringing.

        I went to a Catholic international school when I was young, and they had an option for kids who didn't want to take the Christian or Buddhist classes to take a class on "Values". It would be kind of neat to have that sort of thing for my kids today. But of course the only thing I actually remember from that class is a picture of two girls shar

      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by singingjim1 (1070652)
        I'm glad you prefaced that comment with, "As a christian..." so I could just ignore the rest of it as brainwashed nonsense. OF COURSE marriage is just another way for religion to control our sex lives. In Arab countries the church IS the state and vice versa and they try to control every single aspect of people's lives - in public and in their own home. Fundamentalist Christians who would have their way would like to see the same thing here, only instead of in the name of Mohamed it would be in the name of
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by infinite9 (319274)

          I'm glad you prefaced that comment with, "As a christian..." so I could just ignore the rest of it as brainwashed nonsense.

          There's a problem with your thinking. A non-christian says that christians think this or that. Then a christian suggests that they're wrong. Then you say that my response is brainwashed nonsense. I'm a member of the group he was talking about. Doesn't it make sense to ask a member of the group what they think rather than jumping to conclusions?

          I can tell you that you can't group christians together into a large group and say that they're all this way or that way. We have all of the problems that non-c

          • The premise was 'group a has been brainwashed by people to believe this...'

            Then you come in 'hey! I'm from group a and thats not true.'

            It does seem sort of silly. Not that I think you are put in a very fair position.
            • by infinite9 (319274)

              The premise was 'group a has been brainwashed by people to believe this...'

              Then you come in 'hey! I'm from group a and thats not true.'

              It does seem sort of silly. Not that I think you are put in a very fair position.

              It's more like this: Group A thinks bla. I say, "I'm from group A and we don't think bla." Someone else comes in and says, "You said you're from group A which means you're brainwashed."

              I could argue that non-christians have been brainwashed by this society and the point would be just as valid.

              • Non-Christians have a centralized leader? And meet on a rigid schedule for instruction? And so on...
              • You could argue that, but then you'd be wrong. I grew up going to church every Sunday. I was involved in all the youth group activities and trips. I helped with the high school youth group when I was in college. My very best friend - who went on to become a home-schooling, compound-living, batshit crazy fundie - was the youth minister. But it was always a social thing for me. I never fell for the mysticism because it always just seemed so silly. Once I was old enough to realize that I was actually ALLOWED t
          • Slashdot doesn't shape my views. Calling me a "sheep" is the most blatant example of a pot calling a kettle black. My views are my own and based on my own observations. Like the fact that there has never been any...ANY...empirical evidence for the existence of ANYTHING supernatural EVER existing...EVER. It's all hearsay and myth. God is a delusion. Plain and simple. If you believe that a supernatural being exists who created the universe and pulls the strings then you are deluded. There just isn't any argum
      • And if they get married and stop having sex?

        • Yes, well, the fact remains that the Bible actually encourages [esvonline.org] (verses 1-5, also pretty much the entire book of Song of Solomon) quite regular sex within marriage, so that kind of puts a damper on the whole "church wants to repress sex to control you" discussion, I think.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Then they have a definitively dysfunctional relationship, and if their church has a spine at all, some counselling or even church discipline is in order. The Bible's quite clear on this one (1 Corinthians 7:5).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        If people get married and only have sex with this one person, all sorts of problems that plague society and individual people simply go away.

        I hate to get sidetracked into a religious debate, but I was following you (and respectfully disagreeing) up until this line, at which point I promptly spat chocolate milk all over my monitor. Monogamy and marriage specifically may work for some, or even most, people. But it's not the only option available, and it doesn't work for everybody. If you honestly believe that we would solve all sorts of problems if we just got people to get married and be faithful, I think you're dreaming.

      • If people get married and only have sex with this one person, all sorts of problems that plague society and individual people simply go away. ...and get replaced by an entirely different set of problems.

        Oh, and we need to have a strict subset of rules on who the "one person" is. Can't be a member of the same gender, otherwise the magic problem solver starts working in reverse and makes things *worse* for *everyone.*

        We'll just ignore idea of marriage between persons of a different race or religious backgroun

        • by thewils (463314)

          Religion on its own is fine and dandy.

          The problem is that it is never on its own, is it? They're always telling the rest of us how they think we should bloody well behave, and claiming tax exempt status for doing it.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The marriage license was originally instated in order to prevent mixed-race marriages. Now it is a means of involving the state in your affairs, specifically maintaining ownership of progeny. The marriage license makes the relationship a three way one that includes the state. A license, by definition, is permission to do that which would otherwise be illegal.
      Fact is, the family bible still stands as legal documentation of birth and marriage with no need for a third party state. Birth Certificates and Marria

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by CRCulver (715279)
        Marriage licenses in certain states also require testing for various common STDs, and have done much to reduce the prevalence of syphillis in the US. It's not all racism; there are public health motivations too.
    • by blair1q (305137)

      Accurate enough, except that there's not a lot of turf involved in nookie any more.

  • 'Just like everybody in Dubai, all they've done is made me a master of internet chicanery.'

    I'd be willing to bet there are very few misconfigured wireless networks in Dubai.

  • HIT SQUAD INBOUND (Score:5, Insightful)

    by y86 (111726) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @10:32AM (#33498358)

    Before posting something like this, this genius should make sure he is out of the country and is never going back. They'll kill him or send him to jail for "encouraging indecency" -- or maybe a stoning?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/04/dubai-kissing-couple-jail_n_524736.html [huffingtonpost.com]

    These whack jobs in Dubai and other Tyrant controlled governments have SLAVE labor. Like they are going to respect "freedom of the press".

    http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2006/11/dark_side_of_du.html [abcnews.com]

  • Dollars to doughnuts nobody in the U.A.E. is surfing thepiratebay right now. I'll eat my hat.
  • by gman003 (1693318) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @10:32AM (#33498364)
    Whenever people try to block something, they only succeed in making the users smarter, and those in charge look less competent. High-school filter proxy blocking Slashdot and Wikipedia? Install firefox, set it to autodetect proxy settings, and it picked up the unfiltered teacher proxy, not the student. When they changed it around so the student proxy was preferred, we figured out the IP and configured it directly. College filter blocking Facebook? Use the VMWare helpfully installed by the admins, boot up Firefox in Linux, and it uses a direct connection. Heck, I discovered that one by accident. I'm actually starting to suspect that the real purpose behind school filters is education, not censorship.
    • by pyrosine (1787666)
      I couldnt run any unauthorized software so instead learned to use rasdial directly from shortcuts to connect to a VPN. Admittedly it took me a couple of years before I thought 'hey, I wonder how I can connect to a VPN from the command line' (and then a few weeks to find the rasdial command) but it is evidence that censorship will always produce innovation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      Exactly, and I guarantee you that if you walk around a college campus and ask incoming Freshman their first experience with networking it will almost always be related to getting past a block of some site in high/middle school. Ordinarily, few high school students would use proxies, VPNs, etc. but when they can use it to play games or get on Facebook...
      • by westlake (615356)

        I guarantee you that if you walk around a college campus and ask incoming Freshman their first experience with networking it will almost always be related to getting past a block of some site in high/middle school.

        The Big State U can have 38,000 undergraduates.

        Not all are headed for careers in the server rooms or Dilbert's cubicle.
         

        • Not all of them, but I can guarantee you that all of them will be using some form of networking in the future, and experience there can't hurt them and will only help them, just like we aren't all going to be mechanics working in a car shop, but it sure helps to know how to do basic maintenance on a car so you don't get screwed at the service shop. Same thing with networking, if you know how to set up a network using the same principles you've used all your life playing games (setting up Xbox Live, setting
    • by blair1q (305137)

      But they're not learning anything from them, because they never increase security once knowledge of the holes in their system becomes widespread, and they never turn the filters off when the holes become the norm and the filters become disused, either.

      • by gman003 (1693318)
        Oh no. At my old high-school, at least, they were always clamping down. They actually managed to make outside proxies ineffective simply because they would block them within a day or so of someone using them. Sure, there may have been others out there, but it was better to try to find a way around the filter system in the first place, rather than try to bypass it by hiding the traffic. Although it did take them several months to get Halo off the computers. One of the upperclassmen somehow managed to get th
        • by c++0xFF (1758032)

          Although it did take them several months to get Halo off the computers. One of the upperclassmen somehow managed to get the game on the master ISO they used to reformat. So every time they wiped the drive in an attempt to remove it, they were actually reinstalling it.

          Brilliant! Look in the yearbook under "Most likely to hack a government computer system" for the culprit.

          • by gman003 (1693318)
            Surprisingly, I was voted "Most likely to give Bill Gates a run for his money". And nobody ever figured out who did the Halo hack. Probably why it took so long for them to catch it: nobody was bragging about it.
    • by c++0xFF (1758032)

      Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by an attempt at education? Somehow that just doesn't feel right.

  • by InfiniteWisdom (530090) on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @10:34AM (#33498374) Homepage

    A somewhat amusing juxtaposition of a line from this story:

    The Pirate Bay, which 'offers a range of bottoms to suit every need, including midget and donkey bottoms for anybody having a really slow afternoon – remains blissfully undisturbed.'

    against the other just a couple of slots down on the front page article

    "Torrent-tracking site The Pirate Bay is currently unavailable as reports come in of co-ordinated police raids against file sharers across Europe.

  • So when I connect up my internet for the first time, I won't run into any naked people by accident. Good.

    If I want to look at naked people, the ISP itself will give me what I need to see naked people. Also Good.

    The UAE governmant is happy, horny teenagers are happy, concerned (protective) parents are happy. Where is the problem?

    • Because if a government wants to attack a pillar of liberty, everyone should be concerned.

      Governments exist to protect people from force and fraud, when they step beyond that, they turn into tyrants.
      • Governments exist to protect people from force and fraud, when they step beyond that, they turn into tyrants.

        Hasn't the UAE's government always been tyrannical? Depending on who you ask, possibly benevolent tyranny, but still.

  • By setting up a law that everyone is expected to disobey, what they have done is supplied an easy reason to detain and question anyone "of interest". It's a calculated move.
  • I mean, short of publishing it right on the front page of the UAE Times (or whatever newspapers, news media they may have), what bigger ways are there to let the authorities KNOW that there is a hole in their censorship software...

    I wonder, how long pirate bay or similar sites may still be accessed from there; and how long it will be, before mentioning a filter-free proxy becomes a severe flogging-worthy offence in the country?

    As great as it is letting the people know how to circumvent censorship, you shoul

  • by MrTripps (1306469)
    Heh. There are more then five posts with a "gaping hole" headline and no one has made the obvious reference. What is /. coming to?
  • bypasses such firewalls to watch videos?

    Seriously it's not like they can't log traffic and throw you in prison never to be seen again as an example to the rest of the idiots.

    If you live in such a country, then sure there are reasons (you can't go all your life without watching donkey porn for some reason, or there's a political statement to make, or whatever), but if you are there temporarily why would you take such a risk?
     

  • it is to be expected (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Suchetha (609968) <suchetha AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @10:53AM (#33498548) Homepage Journal

    10 years ago, i was flying from london to sri lanka via jordan airport.

    I had a DJ magazine with me for a DJ friend in sri lanka, and lacking anything to read on the flight, i had it in my hand.

    the guy at immigration saw the magazine in my bag and wanted to take a look. i knew what was going on, and i also knew that hte magazine didn't have anything they could even REMOTELY consider "lascivious" so i let him have it.

    he leafed through a few pages and asked me (with great disappointment) "no mwah mwah mwah?" while kissing his hand.

    i had a hard time NOT telling him that i was an IT geek, and we can get our "mwah mwah mwah" from the internet.

    the point i am trying to make is that when you try to suppress a biological impulse, nay NECESSITY, people will find a way to get access to it.

    they are trying to implement a pornwall in sri lanka as well. a year ago the government blocked ELEVEN sites. now they want to block a hundred. I know the guys in charge of the pornwall. I know their abilities. i know at least two of them are in a porn mailing list that has been in existence in one form or the other since 1998

    i would REALLY doubt it was incompetence on the part of the people running the firewall. that is created to make the politicians and the religious extremists feel better.

    if the IT guys wanted to take down a site, they would, but most of them really don't want to, and really don't care. as far as they are concerned, they are doing their jobs, but when it comes to things like this "their job" is the bare minimum they are forced to do.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Thats fairly true.

      I live in Kuwait, which has similar laws/firewalls. For the most part, the ISP's block porn sites because the government authorities asked them to, but do a bare-minimum job in setting up the firewall. I actually know a few people in the ISPs of kuwait that did the censoring. They basically don't implement any blocking of sites unless the government gives them a list of things to block and do a crappy job at it. I've known how to look for and use proxy servers ever since I was 14. It'

    • Coming from someone who had responsibility for a small corporate network in a former job, I have to agree. Yes, we had an Internet use policy. It was pretty broad, and I knew that people violated it every single day. But, you know what? I had my hands full making sure the computers and network didn't melt down on a daily basis, so, as long as no one was doing anything that made my job harder, I didn't care. Sure, I had to do an e-mail investigation once to determine if a staff member was doing somethin

  • 'unsavoury' content.

    I have always been a bit confused about this - savoury bisciuts are the ones that are sort of dry and a bit salty, so the sweet ones are called unsavoury, am I right?

    'Ultimately, I'm quite glad the UAE's authorities block websites, and thrilled that they're so inept at it,' concludes PC Pro's writer. 'Just like everybody in Dubai, all they've done is made me a master of internet chicanery.'

    This sort of flippant attitude can come back to bite - when something is illegal, then it is illegal even if they don't enforce it very well, and if they one day decides to do it, then they will have a field day sweeping up fools like this one.

  • HTTPS was unfiltered (not sure if its still true), any website that had a secure part could be easily got to.

    Had friends who liked to gamble, they couldn't access the front page of their favourite gambling site, but could go the login page and access their accounts.

  • "Gaping Holes in the UAE's Net Firewall"

    I like how the title describes both the problem with the UAE's firewall as well as the content that is likely passing through due to the problem...
  • Flintstones (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2010 @11:20AM (#33498770)

    Apparently, regionally, Dubai blocks all mention of The Flintstones because people there don't like it, but the people in Abu Dhabi do.

  • Don't underestimate the degree of blatant hypocrisy in play here. Drinking and extramarital sex are absolutely forbidden in middle-eastern culture, which just makes them all the more attractive. Repress something, and all you do is drive it underground. Since the middle-east tries to repress everything, well...

    Take Bahrain as an example. While Bahrain is pleasant enough, they are connected by a bridge to Saudia Arabia. When the weekend (Thursday) rolls around, the bridge is jammed with Saudi Arabians comi [wsj.com]

  • ... they can even get to Craigs List personal services there. [Sigh]
  • So what if UAE is trying to protect its youngsters from easily seeing smut content! I know some guys in the agency that controls web access in the UAE. They know about pirate pay, emule and all the other ways a moderately savvy adult can use to access "unsavory" content. Their logic is that "as long as it is not easy for kids to access that kind of content, we are doing our jobs". I am extremely OK with this. Stop trying to impose your moral code on the rest of the world. The mature thing to do is to try t
    • From personal experience trying to help a friend who lives in Dubai, I think that more effort goes into blocking VoIP, and that's because Etisilat and du know that they couldn't charge the rates they do for international calling if people had VoIP as an alternative. We can argue all day about the morality of blocking porn and that maybe a better solution is to allow parents to police content by offering them filtering software that they can choose to install, but, with VoIP, it's all about the money. The

      • by Mubarmij (176563)
        Keep in mind that both Etisalat and Du give a large part of their profit to the Federal Government (who is a majority owner of both), so authorities have an interest in disallowing access to tools that may reduce their profit from phone companies. I am not saying that this is right or wrong. It is just a way to raise cash for the Federal Government which does not have many sources of income (oil income goes to the Emirates that own the oil fields, not to the Federal Government)
        • I had wondered about the ownership of these companies. I pretty much suspected that Etisalat was either state-owned or at least owned by people closely connected to the state, but I wasn't sure about Du. They seem to be a bit more progressive than Etisalat, so I had wondered if they were under different ownership. Not so much, I suppose.

          Just my opinion, but I think that, at some point, telecom will need to be liberalized or economic development is going to stall. People in Europe, Asia, and North Americ

          • by Mubarmij (176563)
            Just a slight correction; I did not say the telecoms were "the" source of Fed income, but "a" source. I believe they contribute around 6% of Fed budget. Not that big a chunk, although nothing to sneeze at. As to the rest of your statement, lets just say that I respect your view and that we agree to differ.
  • The UAE authorities know very well that they cannot block everyone. Even with the "gaping holes" in their firewalls, I won't be surprised if they block more that 90% of the local population from accessing restricted sites. That's probably good enough for them. The effort required to block the remaining 10% would be too high and not worth it.
  • It never pays to really block all pornography. Then people has too much time in their hands (no puns, please, it's too easy), and might start thinking. You want to have them with all the porno they want, but scared of having it. That way you can use porno as a way of pressuring people to do whatever the state machinery wants (drug possession is used in other countries with the same end).

  • by hao3 (1182447)

    I lived in Dubai for four years (2001-2005) and just used a HTTP proxy. Everyone knew about them. I've gone back since then and Etisalat (the telecoms monopoly, they now have 'competitors' but they're all state owned too through a bunch of holding companies, so it amounts to the same thing) seems to have blocked them but when I was there last summer I managed to use Tor [torproject.org] to get around it.

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