Pakistan Officially Bans All Encryption Online

from the yeah,-that'll-work dept

This was rumored about a month ago, but now reports are coming out that the Pakistani government has issued orders to all ISPs in the country, telling them to block any user from using any “technology that would allow them to privately browse the internet.” The notice to ISPs specifically calls out VPNs, saying that they are illegal because they make it impossible to monitor. The Pakistani government insists that they really only mean that militants should be blocked, but that does not appear to be clear at all in the statement to ISPs. The report also notes that the Pakistani government has become more aggressive at blocking websites, including blocking all of Rolling Stone, because someone in Pakistan didn’t like a Matt Taibii article, and they’re so clueless they can’t figure out how to just block a URL.

In the meantime, we’re wondering how various companies that rely on encrypted information, such as banks, will deal with the order, which pretty clearly says that the government has “prohibited usage of all such mechanisms including encrypted virtual private networks (EVPNs) which conceal communication to the extent that prohibits monitoring.” Do they just ignore it? And will users give up their VPNs just because the government hates such security?

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Comments on “Pakistan Officially Bans All Encryption Online”

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Michael (profile) says:

Re: "And will users give up their VPNs just because the government hates such security?"

Banning encryption is damage.

The Internet routes around damage.

Therefore either Pakistan just began removing it’s self from the Internet OR it’s users will ignore the ban (great hope for success) OR this will encourage the installation of less flawed leaders (great hope for success; actually we need some here too…).

Someantimalwareguy says:

In the meantime, we’re wondering how various companies that rely on encrypted information, such as banks, will deal with the order, which pretty clearly says that the government has “prohibited usage of all such mechanisms including encrypted virtual private networks (EVPNs) which conceal communication to the extent that prohibits monitoring.” Do they just ignore it? And will users give up their VPNs just because the government hates such security

It may actually precipitate those same banks leaving the country altogether OR working with Government handlers to place monitoring equipment on site with the banks to capture unencrypted comm going in and out of the VPN.

Regardless, it is going to hamper their already fragile economy and make Pakistan a less attractive business environment than it already is going forward…

Trails (profile) says:

Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb

This is idiotic on many levels, it’s like an onion of stupidity!! Everyone who complies becomes a trivially easy target for hackers (gov’t or otherwise). I don’t however, see Al Qaeda/Taliban saying “ok guys, stop encrypting our evil plans, because the gov’t says so”. It’s enormously complex and expensive to enforce, so good luck actually catching anyone. All this does is expose lots of normal Pakistanis to surveillance (what they want) and fraud (collateral damage they are clearly indifferent to).

V says:

It's just the beginning

I can’t wait until Egypt and Lybia – and their new “democratic” governments – do the same.

Arrogant and ignorant westerners somehow think that democracy is a GOOD thing in the Middle East.

Ironic… since I’m sure most people there would “vote” to destroy the west.

And by MOST, I mean… the vocal, armed minority will vote for it, while the oppressed, quiescent and ambivalent masses, stay safe in their homes – figuring that it’s just more of the same stuff.

Look at Iraq. Without their buffering presence in the Middle East, Iran has roamed unchecked in their ambitions. How long before they are nuclearly armed and annex Iraq?

Trails (profile) says:

Re: It's just the beginning

Yes! Finally, someone who speaks the truth. This will leave the world in a shambles, ripe for the Illuminati to take over and institute their new world order, using technology developed at area 51 based on alien gear recovered from Roswell. They will proceed with their plans, including the castration of all left handed people, the installation of JFK (not dead) as the leader of their new religion, and the insertion of RFID tracking chips into the right hands of all first born sons.

Finally, Nibiru will round the sun, and the Illuminati will reveal themselves to be the grey, hidden and marooned here for millenia, awaiting the return of their home planet.

They will flee with all the nubile young women and leave the rest of us to die as Nibiru’s superior gravity rips our planet apart.

darryl says:

Re: Re: It's just the beginning

let me guess ??? you get all you’re ‘news’ from FOX ?

You’re all right into the G.W Bush cool aid, big time !!

I thought you were all for freedom of religious expression in your constitution, and did not engage is raceism.
“All men are created equal ?? ”

And here on TD you talk big about ‘culture’!!!. Clearly you have no idea what other cultures are or what culture means. As you cannot accept any other form of culture but the “US Way”.

It’s sad, but it is exactly why American is perceived as a group of hyprocrites and idiots, that these other countries will know far more about americans and america than most Americans do know.

A Guy (profile) says:

Re: It's just the beginning

I don’t usually rate trolling but this one caught my eye. It was an admirable trolling attempt. You took something marginally related to the story and took it in an unexpected and completely bat shit crazy direction. Really, good try.

However, you missed your audience. While anti-democratic, Islamic bigotry is a fruitful subject most places, we are more likely to respond to economic or business related trolling (ie freetard).

Religion isn’t a subject regularly covered here so it just feels out of place.

Good luck next time.

Troll Grade: D+.

JH says:

Misleading Title?

First thing I thought when reading the title was “I guess Pakistan doesn’t plan on having any e-commerce sites anymore” as the title seems to indicate that connections encrypted through SSL would be forbidden as well. However SSL encrypted connections such as those used at e-commerce websites do not facilitate private browsing. So they’re really banning online anonymity not all online encryption.

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

Re: Misleading Title?

SSL certainly *does* facilitate private browsing, at least from governments and service providers – you use SSL to tunnel your HTTP requests through another site (e.g. You’re still trusting the people hosting the proxy, of course, but that’s a separate issue.

A more secure mechanism can be to run your *own* SSL proxy on a virtual private server. Regardless, once you have an encrypted connection to play with, you can use it for all sorts of things, regardless of the actual mechanism used (with IPSec and SSL being the two most common choices on the net).

The whole *point* of the encryption is that the ISP can’t tell the difference between your connection to a bank and your connection to an SSL VPN (

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Misleading Title?

However SSL encrypted connections such as those used at e-commerce websites do not facilitate private browsing. So they’re really banning online anonymity not all online encryption.

You need cryptography 101 first lecture.

Encrypted data appears to be random 1’s and 0’s so you don’t know what it is.

Therefore you can’t tell whether it is banking data or a VPN used for something the government doesn’t like.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Misleading Title?

encrypted data on the internet lives inside plain text packets with readily readable header and footer (sic) files.

True – but unless you have an exhaustive and up to date list of all the banks and other e-commerce sites in the entire world you can’t prevent people from communicating with encrypted data without preventing some people (probably many) from using legitimate online financial services. (not to mention file lockers like dropbox) and VPN’s used by companies, Universites etc.

I think our overseas students are going to be really annoyed if they find they can’t access the secure parts of our University’s website because of this!

The people they are allegedly aiming at can also use encrypted emails – and if you are a real bad guy you can use steganography to hide your critical data.

So in the end all Pakistan will succeed in doing is to massively inconvenience almost everyone whilst failing to make any impact on their real target.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Misleading Title?

Why dont you invent your own privacy tools for your overseas students. One commercial privacy service uses its own propriety protocol, which, unlike VPN, cannot be detected.

Just have your software guys come up with a new proprietary system that cannot be detected as easily.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Misleading Title?

Love to – but try getting that past our management – which always seems to prefer to buy in commercial stuff from elsewhere and ignores the expertise that resides within the academic schools!

Besides which it really isn’t worth it to us for a few students to access the site when visiting family overseas – dead annoying for them though.

Jose_X (profile) says:


The number of protocols that can be created are essentially infinite. To focus on the most popular part of the Internet, webpage: Little bits of errant characters in the invisible webpage comments, variable names, or picture binary data or in the visible text itself can all convey the information rather quickly and are probably used today anyway.

On the other hand, watching over the Internet makes it easier for the government perhaps to catch a mass uprising. But if people en masse want something, shouldn’t they generally (not always) get it? We wouldn’t be talking about bombing each other. We’d most likely be talking about getting new people in power or improving some laws.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually I’d argue that stuff like this is a perfect indication that they know exactly how the state of the world is starting to shape up.

For quite possibly the first time ever in history, the more ‘common’ people are able to have a measurable affect on those in power, almost entirely due to the immense power of the internet.

An example would be control of a populous via control of the information they have available to them. Pre-internet era, all a government would have to do to almost totally control the flow of information would be to control the top distributors of info, be it tv, newspapers, or whatnot, and then use those to mock, belittle, and discredit any of the smaller sources of info that didn’t agree with them. Without a reliable outside source of information, the only info the people would have would be what those in power wanted them to have.

Now compare that to the current era, where the sources of information are much more distributed, and it’s possible for people from all over the world to share information about just about anything. In a system like that, unless those in power can somehow lock down peoples’ ability to access that information, that entire form of population control has been drastically reduced, almost to nothingness.

For those used to almost total control over those beneath them, this is a huge problem/threat they are now facing, so it stands to reason that they would lash out and do what they could to squash it before it gets too big.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

“and they’re so clueless they can’t figure out how to just block a URL.”

Come on Mike. That’s BS. You keep talking about how PROTECT IP is ineffective because it’s really easy to get a new domain name. URLs can be changed in the blink of an eye. It would be technically clueless to block a URL. Not to mention that a quasy-infinite number of URLs can point at the same content.

darryl says:

This is not about encryption

block any user from using any “technology that would allow them to privately browse the internet.”


A VPN is a PRIVATE NETWORK, if you are on a VPN you can access the internet from that network, but you are not doing it privately.

They are not focusing on encryption at all, and do not even mention it, they just do not want private browing, or deliberate hiding of who the user is.

They are just making what you talked about the other week about TOR exit nodes, if on that server is information that is from someone else that is illegal so is your TOR node.

They want you to be accountable for your actions, and everyone who is responsible is and should be accountable.

Chilly8 says:

Pakistan is different than in the USA. Such a regime would not be feasable in countries like the USA, where there are a lot of foreign business travellers. Big business depends on VPNs to access their networks.

Any attempts to pass such a law will meet stiff resistence from the corporate America. Congress is very much bought and paid for by big busimess, and no Congress is about to vote for anything that might cost them the next election. Our congresscritters are very aware of this, which is why three known attempts to pass such laws in the USA never went anywhere. The 1997 proposed law that would have banned encryption, another one in 2003, and then the talk, a year ago, of banning such encryption, has been so far, just that, talk. Congress is not about to derail thier gravy train that keeps them in office.

Congresscritters may be in favour or censoring the net, but they are not insane enough to risk losing the next election over something like that.

Tommy says:

It’s amazing how governments are willing to trade freedom for “security” The resent NSA stories led me to this post and for one thing I know am definitely getting a VPN/private proxy(eg, AegisProxy) to protect myself. While some individuals might justify security for freedom, a quote that makes alot of sense today applying to Pakistan as much as the US is “I’m afraid, based on my own experience, that fascism will come to America in the name of national security.” – Jim Garrison

Anonymous Coward says:

It's just the beginning

Culture and race are two different things. So is religion. As for hypocrites, on this I agree with you in part, in that we can all be hypocrites. For some reason though, the biggest defence against false religion is on “racism” claims in some areas. This shows an acceptance of fallacy by lawmakers on both sides when it helps promote their own interests. This isn’t just on one side, but on both. I’m not American, nor Pakistani, but I am a fellow human, and also prone to the wrath of God which is coming. For that reason, I choose to leave false religion, as God himself is inspiring the world leaders to remove it, and then God himself will remove those who oppose the kingdom He set up long ago, as well as all the liars and hypocrites. I hope I’m strong enough not to be one.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is not about encryption

The problem with “accountable for their actions” is that those who have read for instance the Qur’an and compared it to the book it says it confirms, can see that it differs. These people are not able to speak about it, even though the book it says it confirms commands speaking about it. That means that having this encryption means that truth is hidden while falsehood is voiced. There is no ability to even discuss it. God himself will make known who is responsible, and it won’t be any pervs who are sitting around waiting to kill those who drink alcohol, so that they can imagine they are going to heaven for young girls with their breasts hanging out and eyes like eggs to stare and gawk at while they all sit on their thrones, with young boys handing them wine to drink – the very thing they killed others for while on earth, and which is spoken of as Satans handiwork. If it was Satans handiwork, why is it then in heaven for the believers? This can’t be discussed of course as it is…discrimination…yes? Racism? Or some other misapplied word that takes it out of the realm of “discussion” and “truth”.

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