USA TODAY: Apparently skirting U.S. sanctions, Iran and Sudan are using Silicon Valley-made Internet-monitoring devices on government and commercial networks, The Washington Post reported Monday.
Apparently skirting U.S. sanctions, Iran and Sudan are using Silicon Valley-made Internet-monitoring devices on government and commercial networks, The Washington Post reported Monday.
It’s not known exactly how the tools, from Blue Coat Systems in Sunnyvale, Calif., are being used. Citing computer experts, the Post writes that the products “could empower repressive governments to spy on opponents.”
The company specializes in Web surveillance, security, virus detection and content filtering, which are subject to certain export controls.
In 2011, hacktivists discovered Blue Coat’s filtering tools by the Syrian government, which experts said had used the technology to censor websites and spy on activists and journalists. The Commerce Department fined a distributor in Dubai nearly $3 million for export violations.
New research by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto found more of the company’s devices on Syrian networks, as well as in Iran and Sudan. All have been cited for human rights abuses.
The research, which is to be released Tuesday, also found the tools are deployed in countries described as having poor human rights records: China, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Ivory Coast.
“Blue Coat has never permitted the sale of our products to countries embargoed by the U.S.,” Chief Operating Officer and President David Murphy told the Post. “We do not design our products, or condone their use, to suppress human rights. … Our products are not intended for surveillance purposes.”
He said the company is assisting the U.S. investigation into how a reseller got devices into Syria in 2010 and 2011.
A spokesman for the Treasury Department, which enforces sanctions, said only, “Treasury takes sanctions violations very seriously and has aggressively pursued enforcement actions where violations have occurred.”
The Post notes that other U.S. technology companies have faced similar concerns that their products have been used for persecution.
Some experts argue that many of the technologies fall into regulatory gray areas because they have dual or multiple uses.