Reports: Turkish Providers 'Hijack' Internet Traffic

Monday, 31 Mar 2014 09:48 PM

By Cathy Burke

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Turkish Internet providers are "hijacking" traffic sent to public digital address books run by Google and two other U.S. firms, reports say.

The cyberspace interception closes a big loophole that Turkish people have used to get around a government blackout on social media sites such as YouTube and Twitter, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday night.

CNET first reported on Sunday Google's confirmation of the interception, with software engineer Steven Carstensen equating it to someone's changing phone numbers in your phone book.

"Imagine if someone had changed out your phone book with another one, which looks pretty much the same as before, except that the listings for a few people showed the wrong phone number," he wrote in a Google blog post, CNET reported.

"That's essentially what's happened: Turkish [Internet service providers] have set up servers that masquerade as Google's [Domain Name System] service."

The Turkish government took Twitter offline March 20 after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the site for spreading allegations of political corruption.

The Journal reported that Turkish telecoms have started intercepting and redirecting user requests sent to public address books — known as domain-name system servers — run not only by Google but also by Level 3 Communications Inc. and OpenDNS.

"This hijacking of our traffic represents an escalation of censorship and data manipulation by the Turkish government that we have not ever seen previously anywhere outside of China," OpenDNS Chief Executive David Ulevitch told The Journal.

The Journal explained that the Turkish government blackout began when it told Internet service providers to use their own name servers to redirect any requests for Twitter to another address.

People then began to turn to servers run by Google, Level 3, OpenDNS and others to get around the blockade.

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