Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Unintended consequences of trying to block VIBER


We reported earlier in the month about attempts by the Jammeh regime to block access to Viber, the free messaging and internet calling app.  The growing popularity of these internet-based communication facilities is the dictator's nightmare.  Just ask Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian dictator.

In his attempt to block Viber, Gambians were directed to download VPN or virtual personal network which allows the user to be assigned a random IP address which changes every time a call is made using Viber.  It is a pleasure to report that Gambians can  now access their favorite online newspapers like Freedom, Hello Gambia, Gainako, Gambia Echo, Maafanta, Senegambianews, Kibaaro and Kairo and make phone calls abroad without any problems.

In addition to VPN, there are similar applications which provides additional ammunition to Gambians to evade attempts to block access to their favorite sites or prevent them from placing calls to loved-ones and friends abroad.

In the government's futile attempt at blocking internet access, they have succeeded in opening up other avenues for Gambians to access the internet. LINE.COM, TALK.COM, ICQ.COM and FREEPP.COM are a few of the new apps that can be used to evade the Gambian internet police.

Governments attempt at policing the internet is a futile exercise.  In its attempt to block access, the servers at Abuko Stations and at State House are both slowing down because of the addition functions they have to perform.  It is also proving to be costly because of the additional performance the servers are expected to perform, using capacity that would have otherwise been made available to the other telecommunications company.

You will recall that we had warned that the IT 'experts' being used are actually "amateurs who will succeed in damaging their servers."  It has happened.

Jammeh has also made it difficult to trace hackers to his system because of the increasing use of VPN and similar downloads because of its ability to assign random IP address from anywhere in the world, every time a call is made.  For example, the caller/hacker could be in Kanilai, using an assigned IP that's in say New Delhi, while attempting to hack into your system.

It now appears that the only option left with Jammeh is to interfere with the Gateway at Brusubi which is United Nations-funded facility and thus, so far out-of-bounds to the dictator.  We expect the U.N. to stand up to Jammeh in the event he tries to meddle with the Gateway.

The only practical solution, and option available to the regime in Banjul is to allow for an unfettered access to the internet rather than trying to block access.  We hope the regime will heed our advise.