Skype was too vulnerable for Syrian rebels to use. A Canadian-developed and U.S. State Department-financed alternative, Psiphon, offers the rebel an encrypted communication system.
In June it was announced that the U.S. State Department was creating suitcases that could be brought into a country to create an internet in the event of an internet blackout. Now, it’s known that the State Department has financed Psiphon, an encrypted alternative to the vulnerable Skype.
The name Psiphon is interesting in and of itself, as though it were implying the idea of psych warfare—that authorities won’t be able to decrypt the system, allowing dissidents to communicate freely.
It’s certainly an interesting approach to traditional intelligence operations: Supply rebels with the hardware to effect an overthrow. In this case, it is software-based and non-lethal, allowing dissidents to better organize without directly implicating American intelligence or paramilitary operatives in action.
As Rafal Rohozinski, CEO of two companies involved in the development of Psiphon, states in a CNN article, “Whereas shortwave radio during the Cold War was very unidirectional … with the Internet these technologies are by definition bidirectional, meaning that it gives an opportunity for citizens within these states to also communicate amongst themselves and with the outside world.”
The Psiphon website states, “Psiphon inc develops and operates cutting-edge solutions for online content delivery. Our clients include the British Broadcasting Corporation, Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, and Radio Farda as well as dozens of online newspapers journals and civil society groups worldwide.”
Imagine the U.S. government’s response if this technology were to fall into the hands of American dissidents and protesters, such as Occupy Wall Street, for example.
Indeed, it would probably be declared illegal.