Information Warfare: Big Brother Has The Neatest Toys


September 8, 2012: As the Libyan rebels took control of government over the last year (since they overthrew the decades old Kaddafi dictatorship), they have found that the previous government has some pretty neat tools for monitoring how Libyans used the Internet. Kaddafi's intelligence agencies bought special Internet monitoring software from a French firm and were able to search all Internet traffic in the country, especially stuff going into and out of Libya.

At the time of the revolution Libya had only about 100,000 Internet users and the government monitoring system was able to filter all traffic (that was readable) for certain words or phrases. If something was not in plaintext, the French monitoring software could identify what kind of data it was (encrypted, compressed, music or video, or whatever). The system also kept a record of which users were on the Internet, when, and with what type of data.

The monitoring effort was no secret and rebels using the Internet were warned to be careful what they said and how they said it. But the monitoring effort did provide a real-time report on what most upscale Libyans were talking about and what their attitudes were. Occasionally there would be some useful military information from a sloppy rebel. It's not known for sure if the new government is still using the Bull system or one from several other vendors who sell such stuff to governments and large corporations. Users tend to be quiet about what they are doing in this department. Depending on the secrecy and counter-intelligence laws in a country, it is usually not illegal to use this kind of Internet monitoring software. Many, if not most, nations in the Middle East use an Internet monitoring system similar to the one Kaddafi had.



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