Hamed Aleaziz writes: As the autocratic regime in Syria brutally cracks down on a pro-democracy opposition, it is using technology developed by an American company, Blue Coat Systems, to suppress dissent and block access to the internet, tech experts say.
Two weeks ago, Telecomix, a tech activist group, released information from the Syrian government-run Syria Telecommunications Establishment. The release revealed gigabytes of electronic records, called log files, dating back to late July and early August of this year, and the material indicates that Syria’s government is using Blue Coat’s devices [PDF] to prevent its citizens from accessing social media, video-sharing, and other websites. By using the devices, the Syrian regime can block information about its abuses from getting out of the country and monitor web activity. (Peter Fein, a hacktivist with Telecomix, says the information came from "publicly accessible, completely unsecured servers which were found using traditional network scans.") Selling most US-manufactured goods to Syria has been forbidden by US law since 2004.
Jacob Appelbaum, a tech expert and computer science researcher at the University of Washington who was dubbed "The Most Dangerous Man in Cyberspace" by Rolling Stone, said in an email that "the log files are direct evidence" that Syria is utilizing Blue Coat’s technology. "Every IP address in all of the information released is registered in Syria," Appelbaum added. "Every IP address routes from Syria or from known Syrian equipment with the expected latency of machines run in Syria." Appelbaum believes that the Syrian government uses Blue Coat’s device to monitor citizens’ internet activity, record it for future reference, and then take action against dissidents. "That is to say that it’s a super policeman with a general warrant who spies on every person, records everything about that person and their activities and then it acts as the judge, jury and executioner," he wrote.