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[liberationtech] Azerbaijan wants to register mobile phones

Eric S Johnson crates at
Sun Jan 8 02:53:43 PST 2012

Within the context of our technology mentoring in the ISC, we advise folks
in "risky" countries that mobile phones are, everywhere and always, a very
high security risk. To the extent that contemporary software used by law
enforcement agencies with access to MNOs' log files can relatively easily

.        know all (turned-on) mobile devices (phones, SIMs)' locations at
all times, now and in the past,

.        store, read, and analyse all SMSs ever sent, and

.        enumerate identities and networks of people by looking at who's
talking to whom,

the question of whether a SIM was purchased anonymously may be relatively
irrelevant. Many countries already require all SIMs to be identified with an
individual (say, Burma, Belarus, most EU countries (certainly France), or (I
think) the US). (China has, since October 2010, required SIM sales to be
identified with a person, but the rule's observed in the breach.)


And, to the extent that all MNOs' operation depends on frequency licensing
from the governments in whose jurisdiction they operate, all MNOs are, by
definition, totally under those governments' control, and will in any case
eavesdrop on, and/or terminate, any and all clients' use of their networks,
upon gov't demand.


We think the key is to encourage folks to use internet instead of
calls/SMSs, and to help make sure folks' internet use is, to the maximum
extent possible, encrypted. Certainly, that's my modus operandii when in
Azerbaijan, Burma, China, or Uzbekistan (all of which I've visited in the
last six months).


Katy, do you (or Ali) think the new AZ regulation will really materially
change the degree of risk associated with activists' use of mobile
communications technologies? The key issue is probably more one of whether
the gov't of AZ is using the kinds of the software mentioned above, rather
than whether SIMs can be procured anonymously.


For the record, AFAIK, AZ doesn't censor internet access at all, nor are
there well-documented cases of cybersurveillance (although activists should
always assume attempts are being made). However, starting in the second half
of 2011, major independent Azerbaijani news-providing sites have found
themselves under occasional DDOS attacks.





From: liberationtech-bounces at
[mailto:liberationtech-bounces at] On Behalf Of Katy Pearce
Sent: Saturday, 07 January 2012 02:29
To: liberationtech at
Subject: [liberationtech] Azerbaijan wants to register mobile phones

Blogger (and friend) Ali Zovruzov has translated a new law in Azerbaijan
where all mobile phones will be registered to the government and the
government will have the potential to shut off mobile communication.

The measure bypassed the parliament and was approved directly by the Council
of Ministers (which is sort of like the president's cabinet).

On his blog some commenters don't think that this is a big deal, but...

For some Azerbaijan context - it has been becoming more authoritarian and
using technology to aid that:

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