Last year, Nokia Siemens Networks, a joint venture of the two European giants, sold Iran a big telecommunications package that included a “monitoring center” installed at a choke-point of the government-controlled network. The equipment was described in a company brochure as allowing “the monitoring and interception of all types of voice and data communication on all networks,” but according to spokesman Ben Roome, it was built for “lawful intercept” related to combating terrorism, child pornography, drug trafficking and the like. The equipment was part of a system that enabled “deep packet inspection,” the real-time examination of the contents of electronic communications (technology that has also attracted interest in some “non-repressive” governments as well).
Now, reports the Wall Street Journal, after playing around with the system for a few months, Iran has been spurred by internal unrest to tighten the screws, and the result, according to tech experts, is a level of intrusion and control that makes China’s Great Firewall look like freeware. “We didn’t know they could do this much,” a network engineer in Tehran told the Journal. “Now we know they have powerful things that allow them to do very complex tracking on the network.” Iran is “now drilling into what the population is trying to say,” said Bradley Anstis of California security firm Marshal8e6. “This looks like a step beyond what any other country is doing, including China.”
As noted earlier, Siemens is the outfit that provides all the BBC’s IT services.