With the tenth anniversary of 9/11 fast approaching, the so-called “war on terror” has taken many forms. From TSA pat-downs, bans of liquid on airplanes, and warrantless wiretaps, it seems that everything governments do is in the name of protecting us from the terrorists. Today the Guardian is reporting that Pakistan's government is banning encryption within the country, specifically targeting Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections.
Pakistan’s section of the internet is setup in such a way that every packet travels through the Pakistan Internet Exchange and is monitored by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), a government agency that is able to examine the network traffic and block access to sites that it deems are inappropriate. As an example, the country recently blocked all access to the social media site Facebook after hearing about a contest on the site that asked participants to draw cartoon sketches of the prophet Muhammad. Up until now people have been using VPNs to bypass the filters, access data, and send private communications, but the PTA is requiring ISPs to report customers who are still using this technology.
Many companies use VPN technology in order to maintain an end-to-end tunnel that can be used to encrypt sensitive data between branch offices, and those connections will fall under this ban. The article says that people can request waivers to this ban, but it is unclear how that process will work and who will be allowed to apply for these exceptions. Shakir Husain, CEO of software company Creative Chaos, put it best when he said, “This is like banning cars because suicide bombers use them.”