Internet in Kazakhstan
When it comes to Internet freedoms (or the lack thereof), taking cues from China rarely bodes well for a citizenry. And now, the people of Kazakhstan are experiencing this realization firsthand as lawmakers move to force Internet users across the country to install a sort of backdoor system. This would allow the Kazakh government to monitor all web traffic on both desktop and mobile devices, and closely resembles Chinaâ€™s so-called Great Firewall.
Under the new law, all citizens must install a â€śnational security certificateâ€ť on all Internet-connected devices, which will â€śintercept requests to and from foreign websites.â€ť This is effectively the low-cost version of Chinaâ€™s monitoring strategy, which involves a much more complicated (and expensive) digital infrastructure that filters traffic itself. Beginning January 1, officials will not only be able to see Internet usersâ€™ content, but also block this data entirely.
While the government claims that this new mandate will prevent â€śman in the middle attacksâ€ť involving foreign servers, many worry that this is simply a thinly veiled ploy aimed at installing citizen surveillance. Kazakhtelecom JSC, the largest telecommunications company in the country, claimed that the backdoors would â€śsecure protection of Kazakhstan usersâ€ť who are using â€śforeign Internet resources, â€ť but several experts have expressed skepticism at the notion, especially given the countryâ€™s seedy history with media surveillance.
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â€śGiven the style of government of Kazakhstan, I think we can assume that this is simply part of their censorship apparatus, â€ť Steven M. Bellovin, a professor of computer science at Columbia University, told the New York Times. â€śItâ€™s a serious security risk for Kazakh users both technically and in their inability to send and receive private communications.â€ť
Major Internet companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft could also choose to blacklist Kazakhstanâ€™s national security certificate altogether, making their content inaccessible to people within the country. â€śThere are obvious, myriad ethical issues with this sort of mandated state surveillance, â€ť security expert Kenneth White told ZDNet. â€śBut I suspect that the political forces pushing these measures have grossly underestimated the technical hurdles and moral backlash that lay before them.â€ť
Further details have yet to be released about the countryâ€™s plan, but if history is any indication, going through with this sort of protocol wonâ€™t result in a particularly happy ending.