Kazakhstan vs. Big Tech: Companies Block Government's Attempt to Spy on People's Devices

Several Big Tech companies have broken their silences following reports of the Kazakhstan government's surveillance over its people's devices.

The reports surfaced after Kazakhstan's government reportedly forced its citizens to install a "national security certificate" on every single device that accepts the internet.

"During this period of cyber-training, various problems may arise with access to some foreign internet resources. These can be avoided by installing a security certificate," the country's Security Council said in a statement previously on December 5.

Like they did last year, Mozilla, Microsoft, Google, and Apple teamed up to tackle the issue. In a statement, Mozilla says that it will block the online surveillance certificate from working on its products, while other Big Techs follow the same practice. 

"These are double standards. Some can do it and it is right and democratic, and when some other country does it, fully realizing that it has every right to do it, they immediately say: 'you may not do this," said Ruslan Abdikalikov, the head of the Information Security department at the Digital Development Ministry. 

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Perplexing Election

The reports revealed amidst the country's election, which will roll out on January 10, 2021. 

Former Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, is to run for the presidency for the second time after resigning in 2019. Nazarbayev from the Nur Otan party will go head to head against Azat Peruashev from Ak Zhol and Aiqyn Qongyrov from People's Party. 

Earlier this month, several internet users in Kazakhstan have reported a significant slowdown while accessing popular apps, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Users will keep experiencing the slowdown until they install the "national security" certificate on their devices. 

"We will never tolerate any attempt, by any organization - government or otherwise - to compromise Chrome users' data. We have implemented protections (for) this specific issue," Parisa Tabriz, the senior engineering director for Google's Chrome browser, said last year. 

Not the First Time

This report is not the Kazakhstan government's first effort to attempt to snooping around people's devices. 

Previously in 2019, Big Techs have taken actions to prohibit the government from breaching its citizen's privacy. It followed the same motive: the government wanted its people to plant the certificate in order to gain access to the internet. 

As reported by Engadget, the certificate was Trojan Horse malware, which sometimes disguised as legitimate software. Once activated, Trojans may steal users' data freely, modify them, copy them, and even distrup their computers' performances and network. 

Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox, and Apple's Safari had then blocked the certificate from running on their browsers. 

Another case happened in 2015. This time, the government attempted to have the same root certificate planted in Mozilla's trusted root store program. The attempt failed after Mozilla was alerted, and several legal organizations took action

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