On Vietnam banning chat apps

Submitted by tomo on August 28, 2013 - 5:30pm

Here are some random thoughts on the news of Vietnamese ISPs/ministries colluding to ban mobile chat apps like Line/KakaoTalk/Viber/Whatsapp. The story so far has been that Vietnam's mobile networks, losing more and more money from people using free chat apps instead of SMS (which senders pay a little money for in Vietnam) which is pure profit for them, would like to put a stop to this trend.

- Vietnam is bad at banning things. See Facebook. We are no China.

- Vietnamese and international media often misreport what the Vietnamese government says, despite none of the above having any idea what they're talking about. Especially when it comes to technology.

- OTT apps use different protocols, the only thing they have in common is that they are software that use the Internet. The ISPs would have to block many ports if they wanted to prevent people from accessing those chat servers at different IP addresses, or if the IP address changed. Blocking all traffic on certain ports (tcp 5242 and 4244) would be a simple way to block Viber. Some chat goes over web ports so the ISPs would have to block regular web access on those servers.

- Nevertheless, some chat apps like Whatsapp can be hacked to run through a proxy (which may be a good idea). Skype (without hacking) can be configured to use a proxy.

And the final point in all of this: I believe it would have much more to do with government's desire to be able to monitor, search, and block citizen communications than just about the local telecom industry making a few more million dollars among them. When people send SMSs, it's clear that there's communication going on between two phone subscribers. With random chat apps, the task becomes to monitor all Internet traffic (a task that few besides the Chinese government are willing to step up to). And if we move to encrypted chat apps then it's over for them. Better to stop things before they get out of hand, right?

Read the rest of this article...
© 2010-2014 Saigonist.