Early last week, I was contacted for comment by FirstPost contributor Alexander Plough with regard to my extensive coverage here and elsewhere on Iran, particularly having to do with the methods that the country was using to censor and crack down on it’s people.
I didn’t know the reason for the questions other than perhaps renewed interest by international or mainstream press in what is going on there currently, but as it turns out, there’s a grassroots movement to boycott Nokia.
Plough explored what’s going on in his piece:
A campaign to boycott Nokia products, sparked by an expose in the Wall Street Journal accusing the telecommunications giant of providing advanced surveillance technology to the Tehran regime, may be unjustified because the article was wrong, say IT experts.
Retailers in Iran report that sales of Nokia phones have fallen by as much as half in recent weeks, after rumours spread across the internet that Nokia Siemens Networks, a Nokia subsidiary, provided the authorities with a ‘monitoring centre’ capable of controlling and censoring the Internet.
As any diligent SiliconANGLE reader will know, these rumors spread far and wide that Nokia sold the oppressive Iranian government deep packet inspection technology because the Wall Street Journal (and later Wired and Huffpo) mis-reported that this was the case:
European and North American companies are selling DPI to enable their business customers "to see, manage and monetize individual flows to individual subscribers." But this "Internet-enhancing" technology has been sought out by regimes in Iran, China and Burma for more brutal purposes.
Nokia Siemens Network reportedly set up a part of this technology in Iran for "lawful intercept," only to have Tehran allegedly use it to stifle free speech, pinpoint the location of online protesters and arrest them.
Nokia Siemens’ attempts to dodge responsibility for Iran’s reported abuse of their technology is typical corporate hand-washing.
“It sounds like they’re just entering domains into a blacklist in a gateway at the country level,” said Sirkin. “They’re just blocking certain domains. It doesn’t sound like they are blocking all web traffic, or else web proxies still using the same port number wouldn’t help.”
In our discussion, Sirkin said something that seemed to fit more with the mindset of the Iranian government than any other theories I’d heard up to that point.
“It’s funny, because this is the cheap and dirty way to do it,” said Sirkin. He went on to explain: “If you were planning on doing this you’d use deep packet inspection to look into the payload of each packet for something that could be identified as a tweet, chat or whatever the traffic type might be. You’d need to have planned your hardware to do that on a national scale, something that would take significant preparation beforehand.”
It’s unfortunate that this story hasn’t been told in Iran. Nokia-Siemens simply defending themselves there probably won’t hold much weight, and if most Western journalists can’t be bothered to find out the actual facts of the matter (let alone some Western tech journalists), then how can we expect the Iranian press to do the same?