Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Syria, China slammed over online spying

12 March 2013, 07:55

Paris - Syria, China, Iran, Bahrain and Vietnam are flagrantly spying online, media watchdog RSF said on Tuesday, urging controls on the export of internet surveillance tools to regimes clamping down on dissent.

A new report entitled Enemies of the Internet also singled out five companies - Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat - that it branded "digital era mercenaries", who were helping oppressive governments.

Syria's estimated five million internet users are subject to rampant state spying, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF, Journalists without Borders) said in the report, which coincides with the World Day Against Cyber-Censorship.

Noting that 22 journalists and 18 internet users had been jailed, it said the network was controlled by two entities including the Syrian Computer Society (SCG) founded by President Bashar Assad.

The SCG, it said, controlled Syria's 3G infrastructure, while the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment (STE) controlled the majority of the fixed connections.


"When the government orders the blocking of a word, of an URL, or of a site, STE transmits the order to service providers," it said, publishing a leaked 1999 bid invitation from STE to install a national internet system in Syria.

The requirements include recording of online and offline activities, copying of all e-mail exchanges from within Syria, and the ability to detect, intercept and block any encrypted data.

Damascus beefed up its monitoring in 2011 "adding new technologies to its cyber-arsenal" including proxy Blue Coat servers, RSF said.

Iran meanwhile is in the process of creating a home-grown internet system, citing a series of cyber attacks on its nuclear installations, RSF said.

"Applications and services such as e-mail, search engines and social networks are proposed to be developed under government control," to allow for "large-scale surveillance and the systematic elimination of dissent".

Twenty internet users were jailed and one had been killed in the past year, it said, warning against the use of Iranian virtual private networks as it "will be like throwing yourself into the lion's jaws".

But in terms of sheer numbers, the "Chinese Communist Party runs one of the world's biggest digital empires, if not the biggest", RSF said, adding that individuals and companies have to rent their broadband access from the Chinese state or a government-controlled company.

"The tools put in place to filter and monitor the internet are collectively known as the Great Firewall of China. Begun in 2003, it allows for access to foreign sites to be filtered," it said, and to block feeds and content deemed undesirable.


"The Chinese cyber dissident Hu Jia and his wife Zeng Jinyang have had policemen stationed at the foot of their apartment building for months," it said.

"China jails more people involved in news and information than any other country. Today 30 journalists and 69 internet users are in prison."

Bahrain, which with an internet penetration of 77% is one of the most connected states in the Middle East, has seen a dramatic increase in surveillance and news blackouts in the past three years, RSF said.

Vietnam's network is shoddy in quality but under tight state control. Thirty-one internet users are in prison and internet cafés are tightly monitored with users obliged to show identity documents before using them.

RSF called for a ban on the sale of surveillance hardware and software to countries that flout basic fundamental rights and crack down on any opposition.

"The private sector cannot be expected to police itself. Legislators must intervene," it said.

"The European Union and the United States have already banned the export of surveillance technology to Iran and Syria. This praiseworthy initiative should not be an isolated one."



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...