In a move designed to leave all communications open to snooping, the government in Pakistan has ordered ISPs to ban the use of online encryption techniques. Anyone wishing to carry on using them must get official permission.
According to The Guardian, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority sent a legal notice to the country’s ISPs which compels them to inform the authorities if any of their customers use encryption. They say the measures are needed to counter terrorism.
While some western countries are quick to use the terrorist threat as a reason for censorship and spying, Pakistan has a very real problem with militant groups both locally and among their neighbors.
Nevertheless, for those using VPNs and other encryption to protect legitimate communications from malicious hacker attacks, the ban is of little comfort.
“This is like banning cars because suicide bombers use them,” said Shakir Husain, chief executive of Creative Chaos, a Karachi-based software company.
“You have to find out who these guys [extremists] are. This is a blanket, knee-jerk, response.”