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Censorship Communications Networking Your Rights Online

Researchers Find Gaps In Iranian Filtering 156

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "With all the turmoil and internet censorship in Iran making it difficult to get an accurate picture of what's going, security researchers have found a way to locate gaps in Iran's filtering by analyzing traffic exiting Iran. The short version is that SSH, torrents and Flash are high priorities for blocking, while game protocols like WoW and Xbox traffic are being ignored, even though they also allow communication. Hopefully, this data will help people think of new ways to bypass filtering and speak freely, even though average Iranians have worse things to worry about than internet censorship, now that the reformists have been declared anti-Islamic by the Supreme Leader. Given the circumstances, that declaration has been called 'basically a death sentence' for those who continue protesting." Reader CaroKann sends in a related story at the Washington Post about an analysis of the vote totals in the Iranian election (similar to, but different from the one we discussed earlier) in which the authors say the election results have a one in two-hundred chance of being legitimate.
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Researchers Find Gaps In Iranian Filtering

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  • Internet filtering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @09:22AM (#28410107)
    The Internet is The Internet.

    Information will get from anywhere to anywhere unless Iran completely disconnects itself from the rest of the 'net. There are as many ways to hide "communications" as there are protocols and servers out there, and no one can do a bloody thing about it. Even a "whitelist" style system would have holes in.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 21, 2009 @09:22AM (#28410109)

    ... and publicly announcing this will help these gaps to stay unfiltered?

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @09:25AM (#28410131) Homepage

    We pretty much know what Iran is all about. It is rather overt and obvious to most everyone. Any illusion about a democratically elected government can pretty much be put to rest. And now that they are invoking religious law (not that they haven't been all along) it is clear exactly where the source of power is. (Save the comments about the U.S. putting the Ayatolla into power, I already know.)

    But I keep asking myself, why should we care at all? Will we care and demonstrate as much as the Iranians when the next freedom eroding thing happens in the US? Will we take to the streets in protest of ACTA? Will we collectively burn our required government healthcare cards? I seriously doubt it. The government controllers in the U.S. long ago learned the secret that other governments have yet to figure out. Keep the slaves comfortable, busy and distracted, and they won't put up a fight.

  • by juenger1701 ( 877138 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @09:30AM (#28410147)

    unfiltered: yes

    unmonitored: no

  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @09:33AM (#28410169)

    Petrodollars. Iran is threatening to sell oil in Euros. If people didn't have to buy dollars in order to pay for oil, the US government couldn't create as many as it wanted, which means that the military spending would have to stop.


  • by batrick ( 1274632 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @09:33AM (#28410173)
    ... because this is an example of how censorship (of the Internet) can have dramatic effects on rebellion, revolution, and government? Nerds everywhere should be closely watching.
  • by guyminuslife ( 1349809 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @10:03AM (#28410363)

    I don't know, maybe because some of us care about other people, and their rights, no matter where they are in the world. Maybe not everyone's a cynic all the time.

  • by GabriellaKat ( 748072 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @10:10AM (#28410405)
    I dont know about anyone else, but reading the tag of "NOMOREIRANPLEASE" Even if you have mixed feelings about Iran and their relationship with the US / World, there is no reason to flag a topic with such a tag line.
  • by Verteiron ( 224042 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @10:13AM (#28410417) Homepage

    Do you really, honestly believe the CIA is competent enough to organize a nation-wide rebellion?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 21, 2009 @10:25AM (#28410503)
    Elections aren't random. Vote distributions aren't random. People don't usually vote via coin-flip.
  • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @10:47AM (#28410673)

    Here, let me set that straw man on fire for you:

    No and no. Both of those situations involve someone gaining access to computer systems, where the owners of those systems don't want that someone to have access.

    With the Iran situation, there are people trying to gain access to computer systems, where a third party doesn't want them to have access. To the contrary, the owners of Twitter, YouTube, and other services have been extremely supportive of the efforts of Iranians to spread the word of how the government has imported plainclothes thugs from other countries to come in and brutalize innocent people in the streets.

  • by BeardedChimp ( 1416531 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @10:47AM (#28410675)
    The importance is in the subtelty, "Information will get from anywhere to anywhere" should really be "Information can get from anywhere to anywhere". The internet's sophistication is such that any geek will be able to find a hole, but would some Iranian whose friend has just been shot and wants to tell the world?

    The widescale filtering may do little to deter the geeks but it has had a profound effect on the average Iranian. [] By blocking simple messaging protocols they have achieved their goal for the majority of the population and so by finding other simplistic ways (such as through the xbox) for people to communicate the damage can be undone.
  • Moreiranplease (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 21, 2009 @10:48AM (#28410681)

    You know what? This should be a tag on every story if we really mean it.

  • by skelterjohn ( 1389343 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @10:54AM (#28410727)

    Responding to "The prior probability of mr.A cheating has no consequence - we're just looking at the distribution of the numbers."

    The claim of the article was that the probability of Mr. A not cheating was 1 in 200. That was the claim I was disputing, not the fact that the ballot numbers were wonky. I thought my point was clear, given the subject I chose for my comment.

    When claiming some quantifiable likelihood that there was fraud, the prior on fraud is most definitely relevant. At the same time, the prior is most definitely impossible to know. These two things together make any posterior estimate completely meaningless. *THAT* was my point.

  • by bbernard ( 930130 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @11:19AM (#28410927)

    "and publicly announcing this will help these gaps to stay unfiltered?"

    It is in Iran's best interest to filter as little as possible. If you're a devout WoW player, they'd rather let you spend time on that, being oblivious and happy, than risk you being pissed off that you can't play. The most important thing for Iran's government to do is to try and make sure that no more people join the protests, and that those who have get discouraged by the hardship and return to their "comfortable" lives. They want people to return to "normal" even if it is just a sham because they can control the people that way. That requires people not paying attention to what the government is really doing, which requires giving people somewhere to "bury" their heads. The Internet is GREAT for that. I never found so many ways to waste my own time until I first opened that Mosaic browser one day...

    What Iran's government has been doing with regard to filtering has been disturbingly effective. Yes, the protesters are getting together and communicating with each other, but there's no reliable sources of verifiable news. No reliable death count. No clear picture of what is happening. Citizen journalism is great, but it pales in comparison with what real news-gathering resources can do. So foreign governments are limited in their response, and that response is even more limited in the audience within Iran that can see it.

    Don't discount the ability to keep information away from the militia men as well. The Iranian government is more dependent than ever on the blind faith of their security forces. They must be fed the party line, and be made to swallow it. You don't get that kind of obedience when those forces are allowed to think for themselves. So you deny them the ability to gather data to make up their own minds.

    So yes, Iran is not blocking all possible methods of communication, but they're effective enough that they still may pull this off.

    Information is power, and the information required to make your own decisions is the ultimate expression of that power.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 21, 2009 @12:09PM (#28411271)

    Ssshhhh you're scaring "progressives" out of their little fantasy world. In a minute you're going to say that it's islamic law to kill anyone who tries to leave their "tolerant" religion. Their world is built on all religions being equally good, and tolerant, when of course all signs point entirely the other way. Just because one religion pushes the "turn the other cheek", and separation of religion and state, does not negate the fact that nearly all religions are in fact repressive totalitarian ideologies, like socialism. There is exactly one religion that wants separation of religion and state, (nearly) all others prescribe a repressive state like the iranian one.

    We all know this is true, of course, and that such executions have taken place even in the US. But shhhhh ... you're scaring progressives. In a minute you're going to start saying that we should do something about that. Of course muslims fear (or know) that preventing them from executing anyone they don't agree with will cause an immediate collapse in their religion (and even the most optimistic of them see an immediate and massive splintering), so they won't let that happen. That means we would have to fight to make that happen.

    Above all, don't ask the forbidden question : "what if this 'revolution' gets shot to bits in the name of the paedophile prophet, and the corpses pile up without political change ?". This would prove that peaceful evolution doesn't work, and that any change will have to be preceded by an application of superior force toward any islamic state. In a word, that the only starting point for Iranian freedom would be an invasion. Worse : an invasion at least parly in the name of destroying a particular religion.

  • by EQ ( 28372 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @12:12PM (#28411279) Homepage Journal
    We do need more coverage of Iran, especially from a technical standpoint. First of all, it will help us know how to best help those putting their lives on the line for liberty against a totalitarian force. Secondly, it will give those of use interested in the tech side ("news for Nerds", remember?) insight into how these can best be used to avoid censorship and repression, no matter what the source. Its a good enough rationale to provide extensive coverage here daily -- after all, how many times do you get to see a live, full scale example of censors versus leakers?

    As for why the tag nomoreiran Its pretty simple. /. used to be very "techno-libertarian" in slant, way back when. It is not such a place anymore.

    Rob ("Taco") and cronies (e.g. kdawson, whom I view as being irredeemably as slanted as Rush Limbaugh, just in opposite directions) have become more collectivist and pointedly anti-conservative at the expense of libertarianism (mainly by being unthinkingly knee-jerk anti-Bush, instead of well reasoned critics). Thus any political action that does not actively help their flavor of collectivism/statism or something that casts a negative light on their political favorites (i.e. Obama, liberals, socialists, etc) will receive less attention, editorially speaking. Its their own personal bias, as reflected in editorial choices of what to cover and what to try to ignore. I cannot blame them much -- the slashdot userbase has become filled with unreasoning collectivist (non-technical) poseurs, so Taco and company are just following their audience (and the money). Sadly, this means that the epithet SlashKosisn't all that far from the mark anymore.

    Its not a troll or flamebait to say so (take a moment to read the actual definitions before you politically mod this post). Its just my observation. One needs a heavy set of "bogus-ness/BS" filters to get any real data out of most articles here anymore, and in general I tend to avoid most "YRO" category articles because they are simply editorials with no pretense of actually presenting any logic examination (and a proper debunking) of opposing views. I do value the book reviews and some of the limited Tech news that manages to make it past the slant here. And some of the humor here is still pretty good.

    Still, it would be nice to see more information/articles on Slashdot about how tech is being used to fight what is probably one of the most evil regimes on the planet - and the religious and state mechanisms it uses to maintain its tyranny. Those "resistance" methods might come in hand in other places as well, like China, Britain and the USA, sooner than we think.
  • by DrJimbo ( 594231 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @12:49PM (#28411495)

    When claiming some quantifiable likelihood that there was fraud, the prior on fraud is most definitely relevant. At the same time, the prior is most definitely impossible to know. These two things together make any posterior estimate completely meaningless. *THAT* was my point.

    If your statement is true then Bayesian statistics is always completely meaningless without informative priors, yet most of Bayesian analysis is done without informative priors and works quite well thank you very much.

    The obvious, but unstated, assumption in the article is that they are using an uninformative prior which gives equal weight to fraud and no fraud. You are free to quibble over their use of this prior. For example if you thought (before seeing their data) there was only one chance in 10,000 chance that there would be fraud then even given their data, you would think that fraud was still not likely. But quibbling over a prior is very different from claiming nothing meaningful can come out of their analysis.

    In fact, I think the penultimate sentence from the article is spot on:

    The probability that a fair election would produce both too few non-adjacent digits and the suspicious deviations in last-digit frequencies described earlier is less than .005.

    But I would agree with you that some of the wording in the article seems very stilted. I think this has more to do with "dumbing down" the article for popular consumption and less to do with crimes against Bayesian statistics (or whatever it is you're claiming).

  • by shentino ( 1139071 ) <> on Sunday June 21, 2009 @02:22PM (#28412299)
    I might not approve of a riot, but then again I wouldn't exactly be a fan of big government suppressing the protests with deadly force.

    If I knew the elections were fair and square, or indeed even if I didn't give a shit either way, I'd have to be pretty damned arrogant to be so ruthless.

    I have nothing but sympathy for the victims in both cases, and I highly disapprove of violent repression that is COMMON to both.
  • by selven ( 1556643 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @02:22PM (#28412305)
    We need people to start tagging things "nomoreriaaplease", "nomorepiratepartyplease" or even "nomorelinuxplease"? All those have been around a lot longer, let us have something fresh to discuss for a short period of time.
  • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Sunday June 21, 2009 @09:18PM (#28415255) Journal
    Since state-run TV is now reporting that votes counted exceeded registered voters in "only 50" Iranian Cities, and that indicates sufficient credibility to not change the outcome, I'm going to agree with you here.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.