back to article Full-time internet surveillance comes to Cambodia this week

Cambodia’s National Internet Gateway comes online this Wednesday, exposing all traffic within the country to pervasive government surveillance. As The Register reported when the Gateway was announced in January 2021, Cambodia's regime will require all internet service providers and carriers to route their traffic through the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    How long...

    Before the first of Musk's satellite internet transceivers finds its way into the area?

    One assumes, of course, that the penalties for owning or using such a device will be draconian. I mean, social order and and national security obviously must be maintained, if there's any risk of a ruling party being ousted.

    (and what about mobile phone service from bordering countries? Hmm, Laos and Vietnam may have similar ideas.)

    1. Infused

      Re: How long...

      My understanding is these still require ground stations to work & I'm sure this would be strictly controlled if Starlink comes to Cambodia.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How long...

        I think their inter-satellite fabric is strong enough to cart the data to the edges in the adjacent countries. It may go at the cost of some latency, but it's in my opinion not impossible.

        At which point they'll ban having this gear, obviously.

        It'll be fun doing any ecommerce with that idea - no banking or credit card data is safe. Basically the same problem as we would have if any of the idiot politicians managed to push through their seven year itch of wanting a backdoor.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Okay, hypothetical question

    You're the engineer charged with implementing this National Internet Gateway, and you are quite capable (and you disagree strongly with the current regime). So capable, in fact, that you are considering building in a loophole, a backdoor of some sort, that only you know about and no one will be able to find.

    You're sure you know how to do it, and you're convinced that no one will find out about it.

    Do you go ahead and implement that, even at the eventual risk of getting caught (the consequences of which do not bear thinking about), or do you just do the job demanded of you and then plan on leaving the country ?

    Beer for the round table discussion.

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: Okay, hypothetical question

      I suspect there will be several people involved with implementing the firewall and if the others are loyal to the regime and one of your colleagues were to spot a deliberate backdoor, you could find yourself in very hot water.

      Of course if you were instrumental in implementing this you would probably already know of several ways around it using VPNs, SSH tunnels etc. Or maybe you would spot vulnerabilities in the firewall which you just don't bother to report so you can use them for your own advantage down the line.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Okay, hypothetical question

        - IPv6, run a benign conversation through the stream, run the more interesting stuff covertly in the extensible headers.

        - Split protocol IPv4, again benign data which carries bits of the covert, encrypted communication split up in small packets so it looks like errors (or by email in the headers), combine at receiving end.

        - Steganography rides again. Given that we now have cameras that make images if 12MB and larger there's a lot of data you can hide without notably deteriorating the image.

        Honestly, this will only stop the dumb ones.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Okay, hypothetical question

          "Honestly, this will only stop the dumb ones."

          No, it will stop almost everyone. Few will have the skills or knowledge to do as you describe. If it becomes a "commodity[*]" hack, then it gets noticed that "something" is going on, leading to deep investigations.

          No, not the Amiga Workbench Commodities!! (Although the commodity exchange would be a great way to hook into all user input and see exactly what a user is doing!)

        2. Adam Foxton

          Re: Okay, hypothetical question

          That will quickly be detected and removed. It's like the people saying SSH and VPNs are a solution. Last time I went to China for work both of those were unavailable.

          This was a proper commercial VPN between a business-y hotel, from a room occupied by someone with a business visa, and a corporate network. It couldn't have been mistaken for someone wanting to watch porn, or some snotty youth wanting to get get banned Netflix.

          If you think you've got a simple solution to this, you're wrong. When the Firewall team's necks are on the line for missing leaks, they get very good very quickly.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Pascal Monett - Re: Okay, hypothetical question

      They're not stupid. You can bet they've heard of segregation of duties and multiple control layers.

      Also, you might be able to leave the country but all your family left behind will be in deep trouble. To occupy an important position the government must know all your pedigree. My advice is no matter what your opinion might be, just don't badmouth the government.

      I know it because I've spent half of my life under such regime.

      Oh, by the way, a Western government will not be pleased either to find you're planting a backdoor in their systems just because you don't agree with their politics.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good luck Cambodia

    That's a disapointing regime to be living under.

    On the positive side, these things never work out. So give it a few years...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good luck Cambodia

      Also true of many western countries at the moment.These ideas of dictatorial "strong" governments seem to be recycled every century. At the moment the 1930s are being replayed in many ways.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Good luck Cambodia

      > That's a disapointing regime to be living under.

      It's always so easy to see the mote in your neighbor's eye, but we, the self-proclaimed "free" nations, aren't out of the woods either. I'm willing to bet this has made all our own governments green with envy. It's the wet dream of any government all around the world, no matter its ideological varnish and cultural background.

      Remember, our own respectable and democratic governments have been trying to sell us this very idea for quite some time with various fallacious methods like fearmongering and the appeal to blind emotions: Terrorism, protecting children from abuse and pornography, crime, all very commendable reasons you can't possibly be against, but which boil down to one single thing: Controlling the masses. What you don't know about doesn't really exist, and if you have no way of making comparisons you can't really spot the problems or detect you've been lied to.

  5. Infused

    The Internet is Dying...

    The great dream of an open internet seems to be fading away. 2022 looks like a pivotal year to me as we have a regulatory backlash in the west against the tech giants with "online safety" being the current buzzword. Maybe because we've had dire warnings before that if something like net neutrality ended then it would be the death of the internet people aren't paying as much attention. But the EARN IT Act looks like it'll seriously disrupt the fabric of the internet in the US. The UK looks like we're getting our own national firewall with the Online Safety Bill (a seriously messy piece of legislation). The EU are questioning the legality of data transfers to the US & want to scan everything for illegal stuff. Australia & Canada are going down the online safety route as well. Literally every country in the world seems to want to outdo each other on how far they can go in restricting free expression.

    1. Wade Burchette

      Re: The Internet is Dying...

      I don't like where things are going. It is my opinion that the truth can survive the harshest attacks thrown against it whereas the lie needs a strong fortress of censorship and propaganda to protect it.

      I am bothered by how many people are okay with censoring "misinformation". Okay, it may be a lie. Prove it is a lie. The answer to "misinformation" is more speech, not less. You start down this path today, and when the winds change, then you will find that your speech is being censored, not theirs. But the precedent has been set and there is nothing you can do about then. But there is something you can do about it now: Condemn censorship in all its forms today, whether by a government or by a business.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: The Internet is Dying...

        > The answer to "misinformation" is more speech, not less

        You've raised a huge issue here: Misinformation works mostly by drowning out the truth and by trying to be more appealing (more shrill, more aggressive, flattering/confirming your general expectations ("they lie to us!"), and so on). So, can you really fight misinformation just with more information?

        Considering the case of some people in my broader family circle and the success (or rather lack thereof) of my attempts, I'm afraid this isn't really possible, it's like trying to wean children from junk food by offering them raw vegetables. The main problem here being that misinformation is more attractive, and there is no definite means to prove anything to somebody who doesn't want to believe in it: Your actual information will be discarded as "misinformation", "just a theory", or "opinion" (and as we know, everybody is entitled to one...).

        No, I don't have the solution, but I'm quite sure it isn't as simple as talking it over. :-(

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Internet is Dying...

          Actually you don't need to hide the truth. Just replace it with some other more convenient truth.

          Do it often, do it louder etc. you know the drill.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Internet is Dying...

        The truth is usually just an excuse for a lack of imagination. - Elim Garak, Deep Space 9

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Infused - Re: The Internet is Dying...

      All this while they badmouth China for doing the exact same thing.

      1. DanceMan

        Re: @Infused - The Internet is Dying...

        China owns Cambodia thru massive infrastructure loans and supports rogue dictatorships like this.

  6. The Empress

    Little different from Canada's proposed C-10 and C-11 bills

    It's really a matter of branding and spin. When developing countries do it it's fascism. When modern western 'democracies' do it it's for your own safety.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Little different from Canada's proposed C-10 and C-11 bills

      Obviously, and every country is working on its own version.

      Till now Internet had the advantage of surprise, but that's over, and now all governments are rushing to put a stop in it. Fortunately for them Internet is full of crime and perversity, so they have a solid excuse to clamp down on it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The US has no need of this, we have F*ckUbook, that sells your internet activity to the highest bidder (which includes law enforcement, national security agencies, political parties in power and so on.)

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