West and East: Security for insecurity

There is no doubt that all Middle East and North African countries are using technologies designed or developed in Western countries. Information technology is Billion-Dollar industry and most western companies are fighting to penetrate the Middle East as a new market for IT solutions, services, and industries. When it comes to ICT, we will find a lot of problems in the Middle East as usual. The problems vary according to what those countries are trying to do:

–          Critical Infrastructure Security

–          Cybercrime prevention

–          Cyber terrorism investigation

–          Freedom of speech (censorship)

–          Activism (crackdown, interception, or eavesdropping)

–          Pornography or illegal contents (censorship or blocking)

One of the biggest problems is that they can’t (or don’t) identify the differences between freedom of speech and illegal or inappropriate contents!

MENA Governments might legally buy a software or solution from western company to filter online pornographic contents. But who will guarantee that those filters or solutions won’t be used to censor freedom of speech?

This is normal in the Middle East as most countries in the region are fighting their people.

Most western companies don’t care about this issue as long as they are making money!

ONI has documented the filtering situation in MENA and how it is affecting freedom of speech. It explained carefully how western technologies are used to censor the Middle East. But content filtering or censorship is not always the case.

National Security is additional boogeyman used in the Middle East to breach security by governments themselves. State Security Agency in Egypt was an obvious example. Egyptian government used (Lawful Interception) tool to illegally intercept and hack into users computers!

UAE Telecom Company installed a spyware on Blackberry in 2009 as an update. It was not an update for sure! They wanted to spy or crackdown activists. When RIM discovered the problem and started to fix it, governments in the Middle East vowed that they will ban Blackberry services. They said that the upcoming ban on Blackberry services would remain in effect until RIM becomes fully compliant with UAE regulatory requirements.

Finally UAE didn’t ban Blackberry services as RIM reached special agreement with UAE government. There is no explanation for this agreement. But we can understand that UAE government can now access the data on RIM servers.

Those examples are common in most Arab countries and will not be easily justified. Governments should respect human rights, privacy, and freedom of speech. Drafting regulations is not the case as it might be a double-edged weapon in Middle East.

Western countries need to understand that their image will be affected in our region as long as they are putting the right solutions into the wrong hands..!