The Egyptian government has stepped up its crackdown against what it describes as the careless use of the internet in the country. Only a few weeks ago, the government managed to block Signal, a popular private messaging service.
The move by the government to block the messaging service that is highly popular with individuals who would like to communicate privately raised a storm in the country.
Mohamed El Gohary, a leading blogger and activist, said that ‘Signal is a critical service in Egypt for individuals to have secure communications that third parties cannot access.’
The government managed to block Signal in the country, rendering many journalists, bloggers and other users unable to secure their chats. However, some users managed to bypass the restrictions by connecting to the service using a VPN.
Open Whispers, the company behind the Signal App advised its users at the time to resort to using VPNs to access its services in Egypt. The company also promised to develop new features that would help its users to beat the government restrictions.
It appears that Open Whispers has managed to develop new features that help its clients to bypass government restrictions against the services. According to the company, it is now possible for its customers in Egypt to overcome government restrictions and access the Signal app without having to use a VPN, thanks to domain fronting. Domain fronting is a new technique that uses sophisticated methods to hide traffic from specific sensors that authorities may use to block a website.
In the recent past, the Egyptian government has been keen on censoring the internet in the country. Observers have pointed out to the need for the current regime to maintain tight control over the security situation in the country as one of the main motivating factors. A few years ago, the country was plunged in a wave of civilian protests that culminating in the ousting of the then president, Hosni Mubarak. Twitter and other social media platforms formed the main channels of communication for the protesters at the time.
The current regime in Egypt seems committed to controlling the internet in the country as a way of perfecting its hold onto power. The government has been tracking down and banning all Facebook pages that appear critical of its activities. Also, the government has been using Deep Packet Inspection, a highly sophisticated spying software program, to monitor the activities of individuals online.
According to Rasha Abdulla, a communications expert at the American University in Cairo, the intentions of the Egyptian government in controlling the internet in the country are varied.
‘For many governments in the Arab world, laws are developed to control instead of regulating the use of the web,’ she says.
So far, the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology has not issued a statement about the case of Signal. The ministry has also remained silent about recent developments regarding internet censoring activities in the country.