Saturday, January 29, 2011

Detailed: an American company's role in the Egyptian Internet crackdown

As Egypt continues to enforce the Internet blackout we reported earlier, questions have arisen about the role of a U.S. firm in the crackdown that is occurring nationally, not just on the Internet but on protesters and dissidents.

Free Press has spotlighted Narus, a Sunnyvale, CA firm, which sold Egypt technology that Free Press claims enables the government to monitor Internet and mobile phone traffic. According to Free Press:
Boeing-owned, California-based company Narus sold Telecom Egypt, the state-run Internet service provider, “real-time traffic intelligence” equipment, more commonly known as Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology. DPI is content-filtering technology that allows network managers to inspect, track and target content from Internet users and mobile phones as it passes through routers on the Web.

The company is also known for creating "NarusInsight," a supercomputer system allegedly used by the National Security Agency and other entities to perform mass surveillance and monitoring of public and corporate Internet communications in real time.
Some are directly linking Narus to the takedown of the Internet in Egypt, but this technology is not related to that. Instead, this technology allows Egypt to closely monitor traffic which could mean the government can track the activities, emails, and more from anyone it wants to.

Instead, it probably took a phone call from a highly placed government official to the ISPs to shut them down. That said, the ability of the government to use deep packet inspection shouldn't be taken lightly. As Free Press adds:

Free Press Campaign Director Timothy Karr made the following statement:
“What we are seeing in Egypt is a frightening example of how the power of technology can be abused. Commercial operators trafficking in Deep Packet Inspection technology to violate Internet users’ privacy is bad enough; in government hands, that same invasion of privacy can quickly lead to stark human rights violations.

“Companies that profit from sales of this technology need to be held to a higher standard. The same technology U.S. and European companies want to use to monitor and monetize their customers’ online activities is being used by regimes in Iran, China, Burma and others for far more suspicious, and possibly brutal, purposes.

“The harm to democracy and the power to control the Internet are so disturbing that the threshold for the global trafficking in DPI must be set very high. That’s why, before DPI becomes more widely used around the world and at home, Congress must establish legitimate standards for preventing the use of such control and surveillance technologies as means to violate human rights.”
Might we worry about this in America? Readers, what do you think?

Via Free Press, Huffington Post

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