Feeds

Websense yanks censorware from Yemen

Filter spat highlights repressive regime dilemma

Security for virtualized datacentres

Websense has blocked two ISPs in Yemen from receiving updates after it emerged that they were using its filtering technology in a government-mandated censorship scheme.

The OpenNet Initiative, a pressure group that identifies and documents Internet filtering and surveillance, found that YemenNet and TeleYemen/Y.Net were using Websense's web filtering technology to restrict access to content, including independent news and political opposition sites (during 2006 elections, at least). The censorship was haphazard and inconsistent, not least because YemNet (the bigger of the two ISPs) purchased an insufficiently large user license, a report from ONI published last week reports. Yemen has around 150,000 internet users, mostly in businesses and schools.

According to ONI what censorware is now in place in the Arabian peninsular country is restricted to blacking porn, sex education materials, and anonymizing and privacy tools.

Websense maintains a policy of not selling to "governments or Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that are engaged in any sort of government-imposed censorship". In response to ONI's report, the US-based software developer took steps to prevent these ISPs obtaining updated block lists, a statement from Websense explains. The Yemini ISPs could continue to use Websense's filter but it will now become more and more unreliable over time as the distribution of "offensive" content on the internet changes.

Since we were informed about the potential use of our products by Yemeni ISPs based on government-imposed Internet restrictions in Yemen, we have investigated this potential non-compliance with our anti-censorship policy.

Because our product operates based on a database system, we are able to block updated database downloads to locations and to end users where the use of our product would violate law or our corporate policies.

We believe that we have identified the specific product subscriptions that are being used for Web filtering by ISPs in Yemen, and in accordance with our policy against government-imposed censorship, we have taken action to discontinue the database downloads to the Yemeni ISPs.

The incident raises much larger questions about the role of Western hi-tech firm is supplying filtering and censorware technology to repressive regimes. Websense, to its credit, has taken a stand on the issue but that has left a clear run for Smartfilter (now owned by McAfee) to sell to Saudi Arabia, UAE and other countries in the Middle East, Slashdot reports.

China uses home-spun censorware technology, such as the controversial Green Dam filtering software, to control access to the internet at least in part. We've asked ONI for a breakdown on the favourite censorware of secret policemen across the world and will update this story with that information as and when it becomes available. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
NASTY SSL 3.0 vuln to be revealed soon – sources (Update: It's POODLE)
So nasty no one's even whispering until patch is out
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
Forget passwords, let's use SELFIES, says Obama's cyber tsar
Michael Daniel wants to kill passwords dead
FBI boss: We don't want a backdoor, we want the front door to phones
Claims it's what the Founding Fathers would have wanted – catching killers and pedos
Kill off SSL 3.0 NOW: HTTPS savaged by vicious POODLE
Pull it out ASAP, it is SWISS CHEESE
Facebook slurps 'paste sites' for STOLEN passwords, sprinkles on hash and salt
Zuck's ad empire DOESN'T see details in plain text. Phew!
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.