Belarus has gagged the web
Hacker’s Dictionary. To silence the opposition, the Lukashenko regime uses sophisticated digital weapons also bought from democratic countries. The suppliers include the Sandvine company, which also sells them to Al Sisi’s Egypt
by Arturo Di Corinto
Belarusian YouTuber Sergei Tikhanovsky, a pro-democracy activist, had announced his intention to run for his country’s 2020 presidential election last May, but was arrested two days later. His wife, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, then decided to race herself against Alexander Lukashenko. Threatened with revenge on her children if she did not resign from the presidential race, she sent them abroad and emerged as Lukashenko’s main opponent. However, despite the mobilizations, allegations of fraud and violence against pro-democracy demonstrators, the Ras of Belarus, in power for 26 years, has announced yet another “Bulgarian” victory with 80% of the votes. yesterday he took office secretly.
For Tikhanovskaya and the opposition, the elections were rigged. The protests continue and the Ras has decided to flex its muscles with the help of Tsar Putin, despite the mild intervention of the EU and the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. Thus, even today, in response to the protests, the authorities continue with arrests and intimidation, Internet interruptions and the blocking of news.
Currently there are about 50 news sites still blocked in Belarus. But by whom? From Belarusian and American companies.
While Belarusian authorities have ordered telephone companies to cut their services in the capital to thwart the organization of protests, according to Bloomberg, the American security agency Sandvine — which boasts that it can block up to 150 million websites -, it would have provided the incumbent government with tools to obscure information online as early as May, well before the elections.
On September 15 Sandvine issued a statement in which he declared that he would no longer update the censorship tools, without however withdrawing them from the availability of the Belarusian government.
Sandvine is doing the same in Egypt.
This may be enough to prove that Lukashenko and his associates are playing a rigged game in Belarus, but there is other evidence in this regard.
In two different reports, one from Ooni, an esteemed global community that measures internet censorship around the world, and the other from Qurium Media Foundation, it is evident that Belarusian operators are using their infrastructure to implement website blocking adopting in addition various techniques of traffic redirection and Deep packet inspection, that is, the filtering of data that travels on the network to block content unwelcome to the regime.
The Belarusian companies involved, Business Network, Beltelecom, Unitary Enterprise A1, Mobile TeleSystems Belarus, serve almost the entire population.
As a result of this censorship, the website of the Belarusian Association of Journalists was among the blocked sites according to Ooni, which presented blocking signals during the month of August. But websites offering censorship avoidance tools have also been blocked.
This was reported by the same Qurium Media Foundation, a Swedish cybersecurity company that supports independent media and human rights organizations in repressive regimes in 50 countries.
Qurium pro-bono offers support to independent media, investigative journalists, activists and human rights defenders who are subject to digital attacks, targeted phishing, compromised devices, and forensic analysis of these attacks. Qurium also offers a secure hosting service that includes DDoS mitigation, backup and recovery, technical support to those who need it. It has been doing this for ten years. Thank you.
Originally published for Il Manifesto, Italy: https://ilmanifesto.it/la-bielorussia-ha-messo-il-bavaglio-al-web/