Subscribe and receive Middle East and North Africa CyberWatch in your inbox.
- Censorship and Filtering
- Blogger and Netizen Arrests
- Cyber Attacks
- Internet and Social Media Use
CENSORSHIP AND FILTERING
BAHRAIN: CNN documentary on Bahrain blocked from release by network
CNN International has blocked the release of its own documentary on the use of social media in Bahrain. Titled “iRevolution”, the documentary was unaired for “purely editorial reasons” according to editorial staff at the network. However, critics have pointed to pressure from the Bahraini government as well as CNN International’s extensive business interests in the Middle East as possible reasons for the network’s refusal to air the documentary.
JORDAN: Activists protest for press freedom
In response to proposed amendments to the 1998 Press and Publications Law, online activists have voiced their discontent through a series of “SOPA-inspired” website blackouts. The amendments would restrict online content by requiring that all websites register with the press association, the Jordanian Journalism Syndicate, thereby giving way to government scrutiny, and making website owners liable for any comments posted. More than 200 Jordanian websites took part in the protest, including IT companies and prominent news and blogger sites.
LEBANON: Facebook censors Hizbullah pages
Facebook has removed pages associated with Hizbullah, including the official Facebook page of al-Manar, an Hizbullah-affiliated television network. Facebook has also canceled [Farsi] an event page celebrating the birthday of the organization’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, after over 7000 of his fans signed up to attend within hours of its creation. Nasrallah’s own website was also attacked after many of his fans posted their congratulations and birthday wishes on a specific page designed for this purpose.
PALESTINE: Internet censorship on the rise in Gaza
Hamas has announced plans to censor pornographic websites in Gaza from the beginning of September onward. The Islamist group, which controls the Gaza Strip, will expand upon a law passed in 2008, which instituted anti-pornography filters that could be opted out by individual users. Hamas intends for the new filtration system to be far-reaching and compulsory, and has thus ordered the 10 largest ISPs operating in the Palestinian Territories to censor pornographic content or face fines.
BLOGGER AND NETIZEN ARRESTS
IRAN: 10 people arrested for their blog posts
The Cyber and Information Exchange Police (FATA) arrested [Farsi] 10 employees of a governmental agency accused of publishing lies about their administration in a blog. Their blogs were also blocked after the arrest.
IRAN: Opposition website under severe cyber attacks during the NAM Summit
During the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit recently held in Tehran, Kaleme [Farsi], an opposition website, suffered a series of cyber attacks after thousands of people signed a petition calling on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to visit opposition leaders under house arrest. The Tech Committee of Kaleme estimated [Farsi] that the cost of cyber attacks against its website over the past three years totaled a couple thousand dollars. Despite the attack on Kaleme, the Chief of FATA recently announced [Farsi] that there have been no signs of cyber attacks on governmental websites.
SYRIA: Pro-government groups hack major websites
On August 27, supporters of the Syrian regime hacked Amnesty International’s website. The hackers posted false news stories on the organization’s blog, one of which blamed “Al Qaeda affiliated rebels” for a massacre in Houla that has been widely attributed to militias loyal to President Assad. One week later, hackers took down the front page of Al Jazeera’s Arabic website and posted a message admonishing the channel for its “positions against the Syrian people and government.” These attacks are only the latest incidents in a string of Syria-related cyber attacks against international news media websites.
QATAR: Natural gas company hit by malware attack
RasGas, a Qatar-based producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), was hit by a malware attack on August 27. The virus disabled the company’s website and e-mail servers but left its production and distribution capabilities unharmed. The attack may be part of a broader malware campaign, called “Shamoon” or “Disttrack”, that targets energy companies and attempts to wipe the their employees’ hard drives. As Citizen Lab reported last month, Saudi Aramco suffered a malware attack on a number of its personal workstations. It is not known if the attacks are related.
INTERNET AND SOCIAL MEDIA USE
IRAN: Updates on Internet speed
According to Reza Taqipour [Farsi], Iran’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology, national and international Internet bandwidths are 525 GB/sec of 63.7 MB/sec, respectively. Taqipour also added that “in spite of negative ads and fallacies, these recent numbers prove that Internet speed is very satisfactory in Iran.”
IRAN: 1,500 Iranians sign up for national email services everyday
Some 200,000 Iranians are now using a domestic email service called Chaapaar [Farsi]. Salman Afshar, CEO of Chaapaar, acknowledged [Farsi] that his company’s services have limited technical resources compared to non-Iranian competitors such as Google, and Yahoo. However, Afshar believes that an increasing number of users will sign up for Chapaar as several plans to improve its services are implemented.
IRAN: Internet access during the NAM Summit
During the NAM Summit in Tehran, many cities and the majority of rural areas experienced slower Internet speeds [Farsi]. It was reported that guests attending the summit had access [Farsi] to high-speed, unfiltered Internet as well.
IRAN: National information network will soon to be operational
Reza Taqipour, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, announced [Farsi] that the first phase of the “National Information Network” will start operating in nine provinces in less than a month. Taqipour also added that, once the project is fully operational, “Iranians will no longer be connected to international networks and as a result, they won’t be threatened by cyber attacks initiated from outside the country.”
IRAN: A new national operating system; Ghasedak
Ghasedak Samaneh Inc. has developed [Farsi] a secure operating system which can be downloaded here free of charge. Kazem Ghanbari, CEO of Ghasedak Samaneh Inc., stated that this operating system is designed to answer the needs of all sorts of users such as “engineers, graphic designers, managers, home users, and operators”.
SAUDI ARABIA: Government turns toward technology in the classroom
The Saudi Arabian government and private educational institutions are pushing for increased integration of information and communications technologies in the classroom. The government has received support in this endeavor from companies like Intel, Google, Microsoft, and Apple. In June, a delegation of Saudi youth and representatives from a number of government organizations visited the Korean Ministry of Education Science and Technology, where they sought to learn how South Korea implements online education programs and classroom technology
Read previous editions of the Middle East and North Africa CyberWatch.
Subscribe and receive the Middle East and North Africa CyberWatch in your inbox.