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Iran looks to eliminate 'illegal' VPNs that help citizens evade internet filters

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Flickr Iran flag
Flickr Iran flag

In a bid to increase oversight of web usage among its citizens, Iran is reportedly clamping down on Encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN) systems. According to Reuters, Iranian web users are reporting that various VPNs — which normally help evade the government's draconian internet filters — are no longer accessible. Ramezanali Sobhani-Fard, who leads parliament's information and communications technology committee, has confirmed that the regime is currently weeding out unauthorized VPNs. "Within the last few days illegal VPN ports in the country have been blocked," he told a local news agency. "Only legal and registered VPNs can from now on be used." As you'd expect, those preferred VPNs are subject to surveillance by officials.

Private web access is becoming all but impossible in the country as Iran approaches June's presidential election. The timing isn't surprising: in 2009, its citizens protested election results en masse. The revolt was met with severe internet censorship with sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube blocked from public view. Iran's regime is reportedly working on solutions that would grant restricted access to those social networks, but in the meantime its citizens have had to make do with homegrown (and monitored) substitutes. China has also sought to cut off VPN workarounds as part of its own efforts to control internet access within its borders.