Myanmar digital firewall built with guns and wire cutters

Myanmar soldiers descended with a rifle and wire cutter before dawn on February 1. When they were hit by a gun, they ordered a carrier technician to switch off the Internet. According to witnesses and those who were briefed on the incident, the soldiers cut the wire without knowing what they were cutting.

Data center raids in Yangon and other cities in Myanmar were part of a coordinated attack in which the military seized power, detained elected leaders of the country, and took most Internet users offline.

Since then Coup d’etatThe military has repeatedly blocked the Internet, blocked access to major social media sites, and isolated countries that have been linked to the outside world for the past few years. The junta has also highlighted laws that could criminalize the mildest opinions expressed online.

So far, as the Myanmar military is known, Tatmadaw has relied on a more crude form of control to limit the flow of information. However, the military seems to be serious about setting up digital fences to more aggressively filter what people see and do online. According to experts, the development of such a system can take years and may require external support from Beijing or Moscow.

Such a comprehensive firewall may also come at a high price: the outage of the Internet since the coup has paralyzed the struggling economy. The longer turmoil will undermine local business interests, the trust of foreign investors, and the military’s own vast business interests.

“The military is afraid of people’s online activities, so they tried to block and shut down the Internet,” said Ko Zaw Thurein Tun, chairman of the local branch of the Myanmar Computer Experts Association. “But now, international banking has stopped and the country’s economy is declining. It’s as if their urine is watering their own faces.”

Permanent digital control in Myanmar will add to the ever-dividing global wall of what was supposed to be an open and borderless Internet. Brock will also provide fresh evidence that more countries are turning to China’s authoritarian model to tame the Internet. Two weeks after the coup, CambodiaUnder the economic control of China, it also announced its own drastic internet control.

Even US and European policy makers have their own rules, albeit less stringent. Engineers are worried that such a move could eventually destroy the Internet and effectively undermine the online networks that connect the world.

People in Myanmar may have come online later than most others, but their enthusiasm for the Internet has the enthusiasm of converts. Communication on Facebook and Twitter, along with secure messaging apps, has united millions of people who oppose the coup.

Despite fears of bloody crackdowns, daily street protests against the military have recently gained momentum. Demonstrators gathered at China’s diplomatic mission in Myanmar and accused Beijing of exporting authoritarian tools to a smaller neighbor.

China’s two largest companies, Huawei and ZTE, have built much of Myanmar’s telecommunications network, especially when western economic sanctions have made it difficult for other foreign companies to do business domestically.

Two foreign carriers in Myanmar, Telenor and Ooredo, have blocked the internet every night for the past week, instructing them to block certain websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many more from the military. We have responded to the request.

All the while army According to two people with knowledge of postal communications department staffing, US Army communications unit officers have been assigned to the postal communications department.

36-page draft Cybersecurity Law It was distributed to telecommunications and Internet service providers the week after the coup outlined strict rules that would give drastic military authority to block websites and block access to potentially nasty users. It was. The law also stipulates that the government allows widespread access to users’ data and that Internet providers must retain it for three years.

“Cybersecurity law is just a law for arresting people online,” said Ma Htaike Htaike Aung, secretary-general of MIDO, a civil society group that tracks technology in Myanmar. “If that goes through, the digital economy will no longer be our country.”

When the bill was sent to foreign telecommunications for comment, the authorities said that denying the law was not an option for company representatives, according to two people with conversational knowledge.

Those and others who are aware of the ongoing attempts to crack down on the Internet in Myanmar have spoken to the New York Times on anonymous terms due to the sensitivity of the new regime.

Cybersecurity bills follow years of domestic efforts to build surveillance capabilities, often following clues from China. Last year, Norwegian-owned company Telenor expressed concern about the government’s push to register the identities of individuals who purchase mobile phone services. This will allow authorities to link their name to a phone number.

The campaign in Myanmar has not been successful so far, but it is similar to China’s real name registration policy, which is the cornerstone of Beijing’s surveillance nation. The program not only reflects Myanmar’s ambitions, but also how far it is from achieving something close to what China has done.

In recent years, Huawei surveillance cameras made to track cars and people have also risen in the country’s largest city and the sparsely populated capital Naypyidaw. Myanmar’s top cybersecurity officials recently posted a photo of such road surveillance technology on his personal Facebook page.

A Huawei spokesman declined to comment on the system.

So far, even though anti-Chinese protests have overcome the fear of an influx of tech equipment, Tatmadaw has ordered carriers to use less sophisticated methods to block Internet access. The way to choose is to separate the website address from the set of numbers that your computer needs to search for a particular site. This is similar to listing the wrong number under the person’s name in the phone book.

Experienced internet users circumvent blocking with virtual private networks or VPNs, but have been hampering access to Myanmar’s popular free VPNs for the past week. Also, paid services that are difficult to block are not affordable for most people in the country who lack the international credit cards they need to buy.

Still, as one of the poorest countries in Asia, Myanmar has developed a surprisingly powerful technical command. In the last decade, thousands of officers have studied in Russia and learned the latest information technology, according to educational data from Myanmar and Russia.

In 2018, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, which was then under a hybrid civilian-military government, raised $ 4.5 million from emergency funding. Social media surveillance team It “is aimed at preventing foreign sources of incitement and anxiety in Myanmar.”

Thousands of cyber soldiers are operating under military command, according to Myanmar technical experts. Every morning and every night after the internet shuts down, more websites and VPNs are blocked, demonstrating the diligence of the soldiers.

Hunter Marston, a Southeast Asian researcher at the Australian National University, said: “Some troops have been using analog techniques for decades and are trying to embrace new technologies.” So far, they have been applied unplanned, but wiped out anyone who posted something that threatened the administration. The system is set up. “

Zaw Thurein Tun of the Myanmar Computer Experts Association said he was sitting at home and browsing the internet when a male clutch arrived to arrest him shortly after the coup. Other digital activists were already detained nationwide. He ran.

He is currently hiding, but is helping to direct a civil disobedience campaign against the military. Zaw Thurein Tun said he was concerned that Tatmadaw was building each of its own firewalls, digital bricks.

“Then we’ll all be in total darkness again,” he said.

Myanmar digital firewall built with guns and wire cutters

Source link Myanmar digital firewall built with guns and wire cutters

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