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Censorship Communications Encryption Government The Almighty Buck The Internet

Iran Allows VPNs To Make Millions In Profit 57

New submitter Patrick O'Neill writes with this excerpt from The Daily Dot: Anti-censorship technology is de jure illegal in Iran, but many VPNs are sold openly, allowing Iranians to bounce around censorship and seemingly render it ineffective. Nearly 7 in 10 young Iranians are using VPNs, according to the country's government, and a Google search for "buy VPN" in Persian returns 2 million results. Iran's Cyber Police (FATA) have waged a high-volume open war against the VPNs, but it's still very easy to find, buy, and use the software. It's so easy, in fact, that you can use Iran's government-sanctioned payment gateways (Pardakht Net, Sharj Iran, Jahan Pay & Baz Pardakht) to buy the tools that'll beat the censors. To use these gateways, however, customers have to submit their Iranian bank account and identity, all but foregoing hopes of privacy or protection from authorities."
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Iran Allows VPNs To Make Millions In Profit

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  • by invictusvoyd ( 3546069 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @11:38AM (#49105693)
    Khomeni and the jolly fellas? Is a ban on VPN non enforceable in Iran ?
  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @11:41AM (#49105715) Journal

    Maybe the government's censorship stance is a show to pacify the more conservative bunch of clerics.

    • by invictusvoyd ( 3546069 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @11:43AM (#49105723)
      Nope , the goverment officials are pocketing all the money .. They dont make the policies ( they are made by religious leaders .. khomeni etc. ) and they dont care .. and dont mind being rich
      • the goverment officials are pocketing all the money

        Well yeah, that goes without saying, and unless the religious leaders own all the financial institutions, they're not making the rules either.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        It's comforting to know that at their core, all governments are the same - lies and rampant corruption.
      • "a Google search for "buy VPN" in Persian returns 2 million results". Why is this still a thing? I remember pre-Google, people would always quote search result numbers as if this meant something. 2 million hits doesn't mean 2 million VPN providers, or 2 million customers. Anyone is has ever ventured the the dark recesses of page 2 of Google search results knows that after the first 10 or 15 hits, it's all noise.
    • Who hopefully don't read slashdot.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Iranian government benefits from having a list of individuals, identified by bank account no less, who have purchased certain goods or services online. A very handy tool to have when making threats, coercing cooperation or prosecuting those who refuse to cooperate. It also gives a good starting list for surveillance targets, narrowing their initial field to people who are likely to be more interesting and not caught by the blanket keyword filtering on the public and unencrypted Iranian intranet.

    • But merely purchasing a VPN is no proof of illegal behavior. Unless the government is ALSO getting log records of what people see. But the article doesn't make any mention of that, so I assume it's not happening.

      • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @12:46PM (#49106097)

        But merely purchasing a VPN is no proof of illegal behavior. Unless the government is ALSO getting log records of what people see. But the article doesn't make any mention of that, so I assume it's not happening.

        Once you have the name and supplier getting the supplier to provide information you want is not that big of a step. You can let most people use a VPN without problems and let suppliers make money; in exchange they provide you with what you want or lose the income stream.

        • This probably holds true for local VPN providers or those run by the government itself. But any service outside Iran would see no reason to cooperate with the Iranian government.

          • by unrtst ( 777550 )

            This probably holds true for local VPN providers or those run by the government itself. But any service outside Iran would see no reason to cooperate with the Iranian government.

            Money.
            They are businesses, therefore they want/need money.
            There is little risk in this. If the (Iranian) user complains or sues, to whom will they complain? The user was breaking the law.

            In general, you're probably right. However, if the Iranian government wanted, they could simply block access to that outside VPN that was not working with them, thus artificially limiting the users choice to those that abide. It's really not a far stretch of the imagination to think that may be happening.

            • True. Money can be viewed in two ways - short term and long term. A company that wishes to maintain its reputation against any future revelations might decide to not cooperate simply because if it ever came to light it would be very bad for it - especially if there was no legal obligation to turn over the user data for a service specifically designed to protect privacy like a VPN!

              But yeah - the govt. can simply block VPNs outside the country, and that would be that.

            • by Creepy ( 93888 )

              Just because a packet is encrypted and outbound from Iran, they don't know the packet is necessarily VPN. There are some signatures that signify use of certain VPNs and they can get that with Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) according to forums I've read, but it also sounds like they would need to block them one by one including new and modified ones. Unlike viruses, though, some of those connections may be legitimate business or government ones.

      • by grcumb ( 781340 )

        But merely purchasing a VPN is no proof of illegal behavior.

        Yes, yes it is. The very first sentence of the summary says so. I think you win some sort of /. prize for ignoring even that.

        Spoiler alert: The story is set in Iran. Turns out the bad guys are actually helping people get around their own laws because they get rich doing it.

      • Don't need all that.

        Here's a person of interest you know nothing about. Happened to be in the area on surveillance cams when shit went down.

        Does he have a vpn? Yes?

        Does he have a job that needs a vpn? Bank, Oil company, network admin for 500 users (how many of those in Iran?)...

        No?

        Then he's up to something.

    • You may be correct, and what you say is plausible, but I have the feeling that the Islamic bit of the Islamic Republic might be a bit half hearted. I worked with an Iranian lady who laughed when someone mentioned how Muslims don't drink. "You've never met a bunch of lushes like the Iranians" she said, and told us all a great story about the purchasing of (illegal) booze in Tehran in the 1980's. I wonder if their attitude to these things is that rules are made to be broken.
    • Iran is a "young" country in terms of population age.

      From 2011, but that's only 4 years ago:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org]

      So if 70% (7 out of 10) are using VPN and being cataloged, they are basically doing a census.

      If they are tracking usage then they remind me of the US, they just track everyone. I'm from the US.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @11:51AM (#49105785) Homepage
    If you think this kind of corruption is typical of iran, a bit of light should be shed to help. this type of nearly parasitic marketplace is the direct result of 40 years of unsuccessful economic sanctions and trade embargoes by the west. When Iran says, for example, its nuclear program is peaceful its quite easy to see why: imports of X-Ray and medical isotopes from nato countries are severely restricted if not outright banned. Iran is entirely dependent upon Russia for the nuclear material they receive, and 100% is directed toward the bushehr power plant. Irans every export from rugs to simple spices like cumin are forbidden by western allies. And once every other year, the United States toys with the idea of an invasion, bombing, assassination, or plot to destroy Iranian infrastructure as part of a sadistic and misguided foreign policy of stopping a communist threat that never existed. For americans, this video helps explain some of the market eccentricities of the country.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Solandri ( 704621 )

      this type of nearly parasitic marketplace is the direct result of 40 years of unsuccessful economic sanctions and trade embargoes by the west.

      This is the same bullshit spouted by the Castro government in Cuba. You do not have an inherent right to force other people to trade with you. If they don't want to trade with you, it is their right not to trade with you. If your socio-economic system is robust, it will continue along just fine. Perhaps not as well as if you had had more trade opportunities, but

    • by tacokill ( 531275 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @01:31PM (#49106357)
      The market would be more accessible to Iran if they would quit openly calling for the complete annihilation of Isreal. Stuff like that rightfully makes other nations skeptical of their intentions.
      • Exactly. It's the open hostilities to neighboring countries and support for or actually participating in terrorism and terrorist activities that keep the sanctions in place.

    • I love how you totally neglect to mention the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran (its correct name) is a functioning fascist theocracy. It is ruled by Muslim religious leaders. That's why it's so wildly unpopular worldwide. That's why young people need VPNs to get out to the world.

      Maybe this is all a message from the world to Iran that they need to change their thinking. Being trade embargoed is like putting a child in time-out. What did you do wrong, and why are you in time-out? Stop calling the

  • Of the day? Howabout "de rigueur" required.

    • No, you're thinking of 'du jour', which is indeed French for 'of the day' and isn't the same thing.

      • by rea1l1 ( 903073 )

        de jure - "according to law; by right"

        Many say the United States has been a "de facto" power since the civil war, meaning that they are the government in fact, but also meaning that they are not the government "by right", as military force was and is used against the people to assert control.

        In other words, NOT "for the people, by the people".

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is an excellent example of criminalization of ordinary behavior enabling selective prosecution.

    A good example would be traffic laws (everywhere).

    Or, for a US specific example: the official who was convicted of leaking that NKorea would be unhappy with sanctions... as compared to the official who just leaked that we were going to retake Mosul.

  • It was like that in the communist countries too. Jammers were working all the time, but radios with full shortwave bands, precision tuning, double/triple conversion were cheap and freely available making the jamming ineffective.

  • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Sunday February 22, 2015 @12:35PM (#49106041)

    Christian Amanpour, a journalist, who visited her young relatives in Iran when journalists could finally return to Iran, talked with young relatives. She noted those young people just wanted to finish their education and get jobs, homes and families just like their relative who were in Europe; who they communicate with using VPNs, of course.

    The young people in Iran are generally sharp and educated (more on VPNs than US kids) and they will eventually change Iran. Even the top leader recently noted they need to break up the monopolies in Iran (read controlled by the Republican Guard) so more innovation and business activity can grow & create more jobs.

    Right now, many women in Iran, given half a chance, escape to Europe and never come back. Iran will change whether the Mullahs like it or not.

    • American sanctions and persecution keep the religious hardliners in power in Iran. Just like they kept the Communists in power in Cuba. We turned China into a capitalist "Western" country (just like us) using trade and open borders, there is no reason it won't work in Iran.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        ... turned China into a capitalist ...

        China remedied the fault of communism by deregulating supply; thus building small-scale, grass-roots capitalism. By contrast, Russia tried to remedy communism by deregulating management, employment and some investment; thus emphasizing the inability of controlled pricing to respond to the demand-supply cycle.

      • by dj245 ( 732906 )

        American sanctions and persecution keep the religious hardliners in power in Iran. Just like they kept the Communists in power in Cuba. We turned China into a capitalist "Western" country (just like us) using trade and open borders, there is no reason it won't work in Iran.

        Same as North Korea. And the US to some extent. You need a big bad enemy to keep people distracted from the real problems.

  • I remember someone who had learned Arabic in Syria saying that the Syrian government had method where they would loosen controls for a few years so that they could get info on people, then crack down.

  • Gov't locks down everything so the only way you can get to where you want to go is by VPN.
    Pay for it and you say "Ha! I got around your firewall".
    Govt supplies it for free and you say "WTF?! You're issuing internet licenses and spying on me!"

    VPN's have useful purposes--getting past (some) firewalls, pretending you're somewhere you're not, protecting your privacy from a *casual* snoop.
    As long as you don't *really* care about getting caught doing whatever it is you're doing, a VPN is just fine.
    If what you'r

  • I think that apparently young Iranians don't understand the concept of a 'honeypot'. The Iranian government is probably keeping close track of them, and will pounce on them at the appropriate time.
  • ... doesn't mean they really give a shit.

  • Governments don't "allow" profits (or losses), what they do is either respect PRIVATE PROPERTY and private financial transactions or they don't.

    If VPN's in an islamic Tyranny like Iran are profitable and being allowed to remain open it can only be because they either fear the consequences of shuttering them, or (much more likely) the people profiting from them are too well connected to the Mad Mullahs that run Iran to be shut down.

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