The Internet and Governments

Background ( preferably dont skip this part :) )

The internet has changed our lives. The change is not yet over nor close to being over, but from being a 56k dial up modems of large entities and IT-savvy people (politically correct word for geeks) it had spread to every 14-yo teenager’s iPhone. Internet had become a part of our basic infrastructure such as water, electricity and suer systems. In israel you can see the difference when a city like Haifa is manifesting a project which it’s intention is to make the internet accessible to every one using 802.11 technology (WiFi). The Bezeq-Free-WiFi is not an example since it is publicity stunt intended only to Bezeq’s clients.

The internet has changed our entire way of communication. Physical access is no longer required to transfer large amounts of data. There is an old saying: “Never underestimate the bandwidth of a truck full of tapes.” We can now say that we can. An household bandwidth of 50 MB/s is now available for almost anyone who desires it with an affordable price.

This also changed the way us, the consumers, consume our products. In this case we will look at music and movies since it is the easiest way to refer to. From vinyl records to cassette tapes to CDs our media has changed. Today we are able to choose the songs we want and don’t need to buy the entire CD. We can pay very low prices, purchase our music encoded on MP3 format and code it to any system we like such as our car stereo an action which once needed a lot of effort, knowledge and also breaking the law. Assuming we bought a CD a couple of year ago, we purchased the right to listen to it. We were also allowed to make as much copies of it as we like as long as we dont spread it around. BUT(!) the CDs came with built in protection against copying the data from it and it is still illegal in the US to break the protection so by practice we are not allowed to make as much copies of it as we like. If you want to read more about this history you can view the XCP and the Sony rootkit scandal.



As defined “Piracy is typically an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea.”. We are obviously not at sea, but there is another crucial element which have changed. In “typical” piracy, we are stealing a loot. We are misplacing an item from the rightful owner. In digital piracy we do not displace it, we are creating another copy. The original owner of the file still has the file and is able to use it but now we have another copy of it. Note: this does not make piracy any better and just for full disclosure: I am against piracy and I think that we should purchase the music we like and not download it, even if just to support the artist which makes the music.


The “Government”

Well, the reason I put the word government in brackets is due to a couple of reasons: first, a government is not a unified organization. It is comprised in many and unfortunately I cannot say that I know a government which acts as a uniform entity. Also, in this case, we are referring to multiple regimes which may or may not be related to each other. Now that we have the basic set of what does the word “government” refers to in this article lets get to it.

SOPA and PIPA are the most common examples which are rising when mentioning governments and the internet. Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) are two laws which have been introduced in the US on October and May 2011. The official reasons and justification for these acts basically claims that we need more enforcement to protect us while we are online. The laws gave US officials the right to shut down sites which contains copyrights violation material without previous notice, access users databases without a warrant and more and more and more. When the SOPA and PIPA acts were introduced a large panic aroused (and very rightfully so). SOPA and PIPA gave the US government the official approval to censor the internet and is considered by most to be the harsh equivalent of the Patriot Act. One of the most famous responses to SOPA was the blackout Wikipedia initiated to show it’s protest of the law.

The reason i’m writing this article is not to show that we can make a change. That had become clear by now that if internet users will work as a unified entity for a unified goal we can make a change. I’m writing this to refer to information which is generally know but is rarely given any consideration in our daily lives.

A first example is the “Great FireWall of China”. The Chinese government basically tunnels all of it’s internet providers (ISP) over a government managed censorship entity which censors information “the public has no interest of knowing”, “can cause government instability” and “may offend an entity or a specific”. China’s censorship is mostly a success. There are ways (and relatively easy such as Tor clients) to bypass that censorship, but most of the citizens are not aware that it is possible and therefore does not have access to a great amount of information, news, reviews and so on.

During the “Arab-Spring” in Egypt, a great deal of the internet was censored trying to stop the revolution and was also blacked out. In Libya, the free-speach rights on the internet was cancelled due to regime opponents.

List of ‘enemies of the internet’ and ‘countries under surveillance’.

And…? These are third-world countries

and you’re half right. No one is going to take down the internet from the continent of the US or Europe, not by censorship anyway, a cyberwar is something different. But this is not what you should fear. The internet “going down” is something we can over come. Thanks to folks like Einstein and Al-Gor (yes, that was sarcasm) we have satellites and wireless communication which can travel long distances and we will probably always have a way of commutating across large distances. The problem is (almost as always) in the grey zone. Not cancelling the internet, but restricting it. It started as the FBI took out Megauploads which was a site that allowed anyone to upload a file and then share it with other users. It was taken down in the accusations that the site is not aggressive enough about making sure that the users’ files are distributed according to their copyrights and are not violating any copyright laws in the process.

Today we have a new threat on the table. One which is not so different from SOPA and PIPA and can even be more cataclysmic to the way we experience the internet today. Today we have the UN’s ITU (Internet TeleCommunications Union) which is an entity in the UN responsible for tele-communations. Now trying to push the ITU as a censorship body also the in the ‘reason’ of piracy. Google already declared war on this act.



Internet is something we all depend on. Most of us get our news from it, our music, movies and a great deal of our opinions is either downloaded directly from the internet or being formed out of information we have access to due to the internet. The entire concept of the internet means that there should not be any entity which censors information we have access to. Censoring the internet is identical to disallowing the freedom of speech we so value. If I recall correctly it was Voltaire which once said

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

About The Author

Yuval Nativ

Yuval Nativ

Yuval (tisf) Nativ is the manager of the Cyber Assualt Division of See-Security Technologies. As part of his job he is the manager of the Hacking Defined Experts program, a penetration tester, security researcher and developer. If you like to find him in our offices, just ask where Moriarty is…

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