Kazakhstan internet

Kazakhstan halts internet surveillance programme

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Kazakhstan has halted the introduction of an internet surveillance programme that was criticised by lawyers for being illegal.

The country’s National Security Committee (NSC) described the rollout as a “test” which has now been completed successfully.

Mobile phone operators in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan had asked customers to install an encryption certificate on their devices or risk losing internet access.

The NSC had said the primary reason for the certificates was to “prevent cyberthreats in both cyber and the information space”. It admitted that “problematic issues” occurred in relation to the implementation of the certificate, which also impacted “the operation of networks of telecom operators”.

According to Reuters, the certificate allowed users’ traffic to be intercepted by the government, circumventing encryption used by email and messaging applications.

Several Kazakh lawyers said this week they had sued the country’s three mobile operators, arguing that restricting internet access to those who refused to install the certificate would be illegal.

The NSC said it had terminated the “test” of the security certificate after “positive results” and intends to post instructions in the near future about how to remove it from personal devices.

Nevertheless, the NSC also warned that the certificate could be reintroduced in the future in event of any cyber attack that threatened national security, but said it would warn citizens prior to its use in such a scenario.

Even prior to the roll out of the certificate, the former Soviet republic would block access to various forms of social media such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and Telegram when politically sensitive events were occurring.

The most recent wave of blockages coincided with the election on 9 June of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who went from being interim leader to full-time president.

In May, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a policy to potentially isolate the Russian internet and allow it to function independently from the rest of the world’s network.

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