Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Technology of Tyranny

June 15th, 2009 · No Comments

Given that the Iran hostage crisis is one of our formative memories, we’ve taken a keen interest in the recent tumult on the streets of Tehran. Of particular note has been the regime’s effective use of technology to foil grassroots communications. First the mullahs shut off text messaging and The Tubes, then they actually managed to squelch incoming satellite transmissions—thereby insuring that Iranian dish owners can’t get a Western perspective on the protests.

Satellite jamming is no mean feat, yet it’s something that Iran’s government has mastered over time:

An independent investigation by Britain’s Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) in Worcesteshire confirmed that the television station was being jammed by a carrier wave in the Chamestan region of the Caspian Sea. DERA is affiliated to the British Ministry of Defence.

The Iranian government had previously jammed Simaye Azadi’s signals on PanAmSat, AsiaSat, Arabsat, and Eutelsat (W3 and Hotbird) carriers in June and August of 1997, June of 1998, March of 1999, and October of 2000, according to Pirhosseini.

Iran has even used third parties to jam satellite broadcasts in the past. In July 2003, Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of Voice of America’s Board of Governors, took the unusual step of publicly condemning the Cuban government for jamming all U.S. broadcasts into Iran. He denounced “deliberate and malicious” efforts “to block Iranian audiences from gaining access to truthful news and information.”

The carrier-wave jamming referenced above is actually somewhat unsophisticated by today’s standards. The favored method now is to spoof GPS signals, and thereby dupe receivers into locking onto fake sources of data. A full breakdown on the various jamming techs is available here (PDF).

The worst part is that such jamming is tough to route around, at least for individuals. But there appear to be ways for satellite owners to counter the measures—at least if they’re willing to shell out for the cause.

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