Earlier this month my colleague Carl Herberger wrote a blog post regarding how the internet was rolling back our freedoms. I would agree with him. As time moves forward, we are seeing more situations where no one can hide from their government as the internet closes around them. An open internet as we know it may be coming to an end as several countries begin moving towards the idea of a centralized gateway that is controlled by their government.
China has what is known as the ‘Great Firewall of China.’ The Great Firewall is controlled by the Communist Party of China (CPC), and is used to regulate the internet in mainland China. Golden Shield is the name of that project that blocks potentially unfavorable or immoral content from foreign countries. Internet users in mainland China have very limited access to a free and open internet because of this and often attempt to circumvent the firewall by using anti-censorship tools or VPNs. China has also been known to use the Firewall as a weapon. China can use the Firewall to launch massive DDoS attacks using a technique called a Man-on-the-Side attack. This was most recently demonstrated when Github was attacked for hosting two anti-censorship projects, GreatFire and cn-nytimes. These tools were used by people in mainland China to bypass the firewall.
In December 2016, Thailand’s military-appointed parliament passed amendments to the 2007 Computer Crimes act that sparked protests and a wave of digital attacks. Under the new amendments, the government approved a plan to consolidate the 10 internet gateways in the country to a single centralized gateway controlled by the government, like we see in China today. The centralized gateway would allow the government the ability to control, intercept and arrest any person not willing to follow the Junta order. Since the amendment passed, Anonymous has launched OpSingleGatway, an operation designed to bring attention to the Single Gateway project through a series of digital attacks.
On January 26th 2017 during a lecture at the Military Academy of General Staff, advisor to the President on the Internet, Germna Klimenko, expressed a personal opinion during the event that the only opportunity to ensure Russia’s data from digital threats would be to place restrictions and limit internet access in Russia, similar to what China has done with the Great Firewall and what Thailand is planning on doing. Klimenko believes that Russia should follow in China’s footsteps in evaluating their digital threat and restricting access so the risk is no longer presented. He also went on to say that foreign tech companies working in the country should be forced to cooperate with law enforcement or risk being banned from doing business in Russia.
In September 2016, the U.K.’s intelligence agency GCHQ announced its intentions to launch a national firewall to “protect against malicious websites and emails.” They plan to work with major British carriers to scan and filter sites deemed malicious or suspicious. The GCHQ wants to create a national domain name system(DNS) to block flagged traffic. This announcement was met with overall skepticism and serious concerns from privacy groups that fear the agency will use it as a means of boosting its surveillance powers.
As Donald Trump settles into office he has tapped Ajit Pai, an opponent of consumer protection rules, to become Chairman of the FCC. Pai, an opponent of net neutrality, and his officials will soon oversee the FCC, an agency responsible for assuring an open internet in the United States. The idea of an open internet is that your Internet Service Providers (ISP), will treat all traffic equally and will not censor your content. This also means you will not have to pay for a fast lane to access content from specific companies. Once seated, the United States could quickly begin to see a breakdown of consumer protection related to an open internet within the year.
So, what does a closed internet look like in the United States? A pay to play fast lane, or could we actually see our own great firewall built in the future? From a national security perspective, I understand the reason behind wanting to have a closed and centralized internet, but as a human that has always had free and uncensored access to the internet, even asking me to pay more for the content I already have access to is a bit extreme. Couple that with censoring the internet due to a government official deeming the content is unfavorable, and we have ourselves a problem here. So, what do we do to prevent a closing internet? To be honest, I don’t know if we can prevent it but I know I will stand up to make sure I can always maintain my digital freedoms. If you want to learn more about how to defend your rights in a digital world visit, Eff.org to learn about how they work to defend your civil liberties.