Iran has a long history of disrupting and shutting down the internet. The ongoing development of the National Information Network looks to further empower the authorities to limit or sever Iranians’ access to the global internet, as demonstrated during the near-total internet shutdown in November 2019. While November’s internet shutdown deserved the global media attention it received, it must be noted that shorter internet connectivity disruptions and interruptions to accessing circumvention tools occur regularly inside Iran, and often go unnoticed by media outlets outside the country.
In this evolving climate, it is ever more important for the digital rights community to improve our understanding of how Iran’s information control infrastructure functions, and how censorship, filtering, and shutdowns are being imposed. That’s where Filterwatch’s new Network Monitor series steps in.
This new monthly series will monitor and document any network disruptions detected in Iran, publishing evidence and analysis to try and explain the causes. Similarly, it will highlight any national or regional disruptions, as well as providing some insights into how Iran’s broader information control infrastructure functions.
How Network Monitor Works:
In order to do this work, we need to collect data and information about the internet inside Iran. We’ll do this through two primary channels:
- External network measurement data:
a) We use Oracle Intelligence map data. OIM is monitoring the state of the internet 24/7 all around the world.It measures the connectivity of the internet through monitoring BGP (Border Gateway Protocol), and DNS (Domain Name System), both of which provide a birds-eye view of how internet users in Iran are in accessing the global internet.
b) We use CAIDA (internet outage detection and analysis) data. CAIDA is a project to develop an operational prototype system that monitors the internet, in near-real-time, to identify macroscopic internet outages affecting the edge of the network. Similar to OIM, CAIDA monitors connectivity of the internet through documenting disruptions in access. Their methodology can be found here.
c) We use RIPE data. RIPE is collecting a wide range of data about their members and the internet that their members and the wider internet community can access in various formats and via several different tools. Their methodology can be found here.
2. Internal network measurement data:
a) We cross-examine and validate our results from the sources mentioned above with the results of tests in a real environment on a number of different data centres in Iran.
b) We constantly receive reports about the state of the internet in Iran from a large network of contributors, including from civil society, the tech community and ordinary users. As soon as we receive a report, we fact check it in a real environment, using international network measurement tools and experts.
c) Arvancloud.com is one of the biggest cloud computing services in Iran. They have a public network monitoring tool called Radar. We are aware that this tool is not fully reliable and there are technical problems with their network measurement methods. However, the outcomes of their work often leads us to identify the causes of network disruption in Iran.
After collecting the data, we will share our observations with our trusted circle of network engineers and researchers in order to ensure the accuracy of our findings prior to publishing our report each month. In our report, we will publish a summary of our findings relating to network disruption inside Iran during each particular month known as the Network Monitor.
This January, with the outbreak of a number of protests in Iran, we made the decision to publish an early version of our monthly Network Monitor to highlight the internet and network connectivity disruptions observed by our team.
We understand that other data points may exist which may potentially strengthen our findings should we be made aware of them/they are made available to us, and as such we welcome any comments or suggestions in order to improve the quality of our reports.