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Iranians face new Internet curbs

Iranians face Internet restrictions

Iranian officials denied any connection between the Internet disruptions and the upcoming vote.

May 22, 2013 9:45 by



INTERNATIONAL WEBSITES BLOCKED

Many Iranians used Virtual Private Network (VPN) software to bypass the government’s extensive web filter. But the government blocked access to most VPNs, which make computers look as if they are located in another country, in March.

Since then, experts said, Iranians have faced slower access to encrypted international websites using the Secure Sockets Layer protocol, with addresses beginning with “https”, such as Google Inc.’s email serviceGmail, and this could push them to resort to unencrypted sites easily watched by the state.

“SSL services are being throttled by the government to create a system of incentives or coercion not to use them,” said Collin Anderson, a U.S.-based Internet researcher who focuses on Iran. “That affects Gmail and pretty much anything that you want a layer of security on.”

A similar Internet blockade was put in place in February 2012, ahead of parliamentary elections.

Several Iranian Web users said they have had trouble accessing their Gmail accounts in the last three weeks. Elham, an Internet user from the northeastern city of Mashhad, told Reuters that since late April, any VPN she tries to use only works for about two minutes before she is disconnected.

She and Hamed declined to be fully named for fear of repercussion for speaking to a foreign reporter.

One man in his 30s who works at an Internet Service Provider (ISP) company in Tehran confirmed that most VPNs were down and those still up were crashing within two minutes.

He added: “Fewer and fewer people are using Twitter in recent days which shows their problems accessing the net.”

Iranian officials denied any link between the disruptions and the election. “Numerous parameters contribute to the speed of the Internet and the approach of elections will not have any role,” Ali Hakim Javadi, head of Iran’sInformation Technology Organisation, told ISNA news agency.



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