Iran Blocks VPNs Considered Illegal

Many Iranians have used VPNs to gain access to websites blocked by the government filter. Iranian media reported that a government official in Iran has said that authorities have now blocked these tools. The block has been confirmed by several among Iran’s multitude of Internet users. The implementation of the block spanned a few days.

Reasons for the Block

The Internet filter in Iran was set up to prevent access to websites that contain content that is deemed by the authorities as offensive or criminal. Now, only government sanctioned VPN services can be used in Iran, and all illegal VPN ports have been blocked. It was further reported that the recent block was executed in an attempt to prevent political unrest in relation to the upcoming June presidential elections. It is believed that the authorities wish to ensure that events similar to those that occurred following the disputed 2009 results do not happen.

The 2009 protests were linked to the use of websites such as Facebook to spread dissent and organize demonstrations. In addition to Facebook, other services such as Skype and Viber have also been blocked, according to the report of an Isfahan user named Mohamad. Other sites popular with users such as Twitter, Yahoo and Google may also be blocked.

Iran Blocks

The Government Alternative and Its Limitations

Iranian Secretary of Supreme Cyberspace Council Mehdi Akhavan Behabadi said in January that Internet users would soon be allowed to buy VPN services that are registered with the government. He furthermore stated that this was in regard to the need for financial institutions and other organizations to use VPNs for additional security, which is deemeda legal use of the service.

Traffic monitoring will be much easier with the government VPNs in place, but problems using the sanctioned VPNs are already surfacing. Foreign airlines, banks, and other companies have reported such difficulties which interfere with the normal course of business. Researchers on Iranian Internet from the UK-based group Small Media also reported that even access to uncensored content is becoming difficult, in addition to the increasing number of individually blocked websites. These include various online services and popular Persian language sites.

Further plans under the government Internet filter initiative include the transfer to an isolated, government-rundomestic Internet network that allows very limited access to the World Wide Web. They may, however, permit access to select social media services in the future. This controlled internet is a way to increase cyber-security from “Western” attacks, according to the Iranian government.

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