Lock War

7 min


Nowadays, a universal hobby for the game Cyberpunk2077 is walking around the world. The people simply do not understand that we ourselves have been living in the era of cyberpunk for a long time – when individual private companies are on the same level, or even higher than states.

We used to think that this is all fantasy, the distant future. In fact, cyberpunk has long been around. And in this fantastic present, states are fighting against corporations, APT groups and even individual large applications.

This is what this article is about.

Context

If the fight against such companies as Huawei, for example, is mainly carried out by political and economic methods, APT groups are told on all information security resources, then blocking applications is usually considered very sketchy, in the form of news about the fate of, for example, one TikTok in the USA … So I will not be knocked out.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the story is somehow relatively quiet, when individual countries (the world’s largest powers) are at war with … entertainment applications such as Tik-Tok or Instagram. Although this is an extremely informative and revealing story.

There are two main reasons for this struggle: political and technical. On the one hand, social networks and instant messengers are used for political purposes, on the other hand, they collect information about users and at the same time limit the possibility of control by the intelligence services of other countries (which is quite logical).

Let’s go over the reasons first, and then discuss who is blocking whom and in what ways.

Political reasons

As social life plunges deeper and deeper into virtuality, the showdown begins for the redistribution of this digital world and the influence in it.

Thus, Twitter, once a platform for organizing color revolutions, has now turned into a cozy swamp for the old people. And it was replaced by even faster social networks, which do not require at all from the user at least some ability to write even 140-character text. But the sediment remained. For example, in Turkey, in any doubtful case, Twitter is still immediately blocked.

On the other hand, even this year, according to the western press, the US elections were influenced by all and sundry, in particular China, Iran and Russia. Moreover, Russia opposed the first two and drowned for Trump, whom they, in turn, tried to drown. The battlegrounds, in particular, were Twitter and TikTok.

But how can a “childish” social network like TikTok influence politics? The threshold of entry there is not just minimal, but rather negative. It is enough just to record at least something on video and upload it on your page. Individuals with very banal content become stars, and every teenager can gain a large audience simply by copying the same more successful teenagers.

And it is here that the main feature of the TikTok influence on the minds is hidden. Any young talent who has gathered a sufficient audience, “suddenly” can begin to expose the regime in any country. Back in 2019, there was amazing case, when a beauty blogger from TikTok, right during the story about curling eyelashes, suddenly, for no reason at all, began to tell subscribers about Chinese concentration camps for Muslims. Given that the blogger herself, apparently, is a Muslim, it can be assumed that there were many Muslims among her subscribers. And even if not! History has made a lot of noise in famous circles. TikTok, owned by the Chinese company Bytedance, blocked the blogger’s account, but under pressure from the public, it still unblocked it back.

Security considerations

According to Eurostat for 2019, every fourth resident of the European Union tries not to provide personal data to web services or social networks. The French are most afraid of personal information, followed by the Dutch and Finns. In much the same way as France and the Netherlands, Iceland is distinguished by a high level of mistrust, which, however, is not part of the EU.

In general, such sentiments are understandable. It’s enough just to open “Data Use Policy” Facebook to see how much information this social network collects about you and your device. Nobody hides this, though they say that it is solely for your own safety and, of course, business development. Facebook collects information not only about what you do on the social network itself. The collection is carried out for all applications open on the device. They write about it themselves.

And if you consider that the same company now owns Instagram, WhatsApp and a number of lesser-known applications in our country, then you can really earn paranoia thinking about the amount of information about the inhabitants of this planet available to one company (yes, yes, here I also thought about Google, but we are still talking about social networks and messengers). And of course, you shouldn’t think that the business is limited to Facebook alone, although these guys are ahead of the whole planet.

Some summary table of the paranoid is presented below.

Who will win

In Russia, as everyone knows from the example of Telegram, Roskomnadzor is engaged in blocking, which, by the way, does not ban everyone indiscriminately, but is guided by quite sensible principles. The grounds for blocking are the distribution of child pornography, information about the methods of drug production, calls for extremism or suicide, and other important things. Besides, ILV duties include combating the spread of pirated content and leakage of personal data of citizens. The blocking of the business social network LinkedIn is connected with the last point. Otherwise, the activities of Roskomnadzor are quite extensive, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, small Internet resources are blocked, the list of which can be look here

The situation is much more interesting in other countries.

  1. Politics has a profound effect on the relationship between China and the United States towards each other’s web services. Moreover, in terms of the number of locks, China holds a confident first place.

Infographics © LIFE
Infographic © LIFE

For a long time, the United States did not deal with the issues of blocking Chinese services, since no one used them corny. But then TikTok entered the scene. All sorts of funny stories began. For example, in June this year it became known on the disruption of the rally in support of Donald Trump due to the fact that teenagers, led by videos in TikTok, massively booked seats, but did not show up.

And although the Trump administration said that nothing of the kind actually happened, the US president soon criticized TikTok and promised to “immediately” block this social network if control over its American segment was not transferred to a company from the United States.

On September 20, Tik Tok was to undergo a total blockage in America. Social media CEO Vanessa Pappas even urged Facebook and Instagram to join them in the fight for free speech… Which, however, did not in any way affect the approaching total ban.

“In response to the executive orders signed by President Trump on August 6, 2020, the US Department of Commerce announced a ban on all activities related to the WeChat and TikTok mobile applications to ensure US national security. The Chinese Communist Party has demonstrated all the means and motives for using these applications to threaten US national security, foreign policy and economy. ” said in a statement from the US Department of Commerce.

However, the announced sale of the social network to Oracle with a scratch, but stopped the process. Now, especially for American users, TikTok is creating a separate company TikTok Global, which, like its key stake, will be registered in the United States.

At the same time, some reverse attempts by the United States to unblock the same Instagram in China have long been suppressed by the Great Chinese Firewall.

2. Unlike the USA, India does blocked about sixty Chinese applications, among which was TikTok. The situation here was rather tragic, since the blocking was caused by a real border military conflict with casualties on both sides. India considered that TikTok was spying for China and banned its use on its territory. Also, various Xiaomi services were included in the list of blocked applications, and sales of smartphones of this and other Chinese brands in India fell from 81% to 72%.

3. “Colleague” TikTok Instagram also psubject to inquiry by the European Union for the excessive collection of personal data of adolescents.

As for other countries, the picture here can be completely different.

4. In neighboring Pakistan, which is not friendly to India, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Whatsapp and Viber are periodically blocked. But in the future, access to them returns.

5. In Iran, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Whatsapp, Viber are predictably blocked. Together with them, VKontakte and Yandex are prohibited. But Telegram is available here and is in great demand.

6. In Saudi Arabia, services are not officially blocked. But the special morality police are monitoring the content of resources such as Facebook and YouTube.

Countries such as Turkey, Vietnam, Egypt and Venezuela are known for temporary blockages from individual services to the entire Internet during periods of domestic instability.

How locks happen

How are locks carried out?

Well, firstly, in the case of mobile services, a ban may be imposed on their placement in app stores. New users simply cannot download them to their smartphones.

In addition, technically, access to the servers of prohibited services can be limited in a number of ways:

– traffic filtering by IP addresses;

– blocking links to the site or direct blocking on DNS servers (bypassed by specifying a direct IP);

– DPI blocking when deep learning systems for packet payloads are used, not just packet headers.

Human resources can also be used (administration of the Great Chinese Firewall, Saudi Arabia’s moral police, Roskomnadzor’s Internet reception, etc.).

In a number of countries (India, Ethiopia, Iraq), the government can completely turn off the Internet for a certain period (from popular unrest, to exam time at universities).

Conclusion

Blocking various services will not become a thing of the past for quite some time. If only because the very requirements for messengers and social networks, at times, are contradictory. They want both transparency and complete confidentiality from them. The introduction of technologies such as E2E encryption is perceived both as a positive measure to protect freedom of speech and as an obstacle to defense against terrorism.

An intermediate goal of blocking world-famous services may be the desire of individual countries to support their own manufacturers. However, the ultimate goal is the safety of citizens and their own political security.

The experience of different countries shows that after blocking social networks and instant messengers, countries have 4 main paths:

  • the lock is temporary, then access to social networks appears again;

  • the blocking is permanent, and one blocking is followed by tougher access to other resources;

  • the blocking is permanent, and national social networks are being created to replace prohibited social networkspopular locally in the country;

  • the blocking is permanent, but no new prohibitions occur: then residents of the country find analogues and use other social networks or messengers.

In the meantime, common sense prevails with you and we can again share links to telegrams, I invite to our channel… There I collect and comment on the most interesting news from the world of information security.


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