A new app helps Iranians hide information

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In an ever-increasing government Internet control, surveillance and censorship in Iran, A new Android application designed to provide Iranians with a way to speak freely.

Nahoft means “hidden” in Persian, and it is an encryption tool that converts Persian text of up to 1,000 characters into random random words. You can send this mix to your friends through any communication platform (Telegram, WhatsApp, Google Chat, etc.), and they will run it through Nahoft on their device to decipher what you are saying.

Published on Google Play by United for Iran, a human rights and civil liberties organization based in San Francisco last week, Nahoft aims to address many aspects of Iran’s Internet repression.In addition to generating encoded messages, the app can also encrypt communications and embed them in image files unknowingly. This technique is called SteganographyThe recipient then uses Nahoft to check the image file on their end and extract the hidden message.

Iranians can use end-to-end encrypted applications such as WhatsApp for secure communication, but Nahoft is Open source, There is an important function in its back pocket, which can be used when it is not accessible.The Iranian regime has repeatedly imposed Almost completely disconnected In specific regions or entire countries, including A full week in November 2019However, even if there is no connection, if you have already downloaded Nahoft, you can still use it locally on your device. Enter the message you want to encrypt, and the app will spit out the encoded Persian message. From there you can write a string of seemingly random words in a letter, or read it to another Nahoft user over the phone, and they can manually enter it into their app to see what you really want to say What is it.

“When the Internet in Iran fails, people cannot communicate with their families at home and abroad. For activists, everything will come to an abrupt end,” said Firuzeh Mahmoudi, Iran’s co-executive director, who experienced Iran in 1979 when she was 12 years old. Left the country at the time. “And the government is increasingly turning to hierarchical filtering, banning different digital platforms, and trying to provide alternatives to international services such as social media. This doesn’t look great; this is a direction we absolutely don’t want to see. So this This is where the application comes in.”

Iran is a highly connected country. More than 57 million out of 83 million citizens Use the internetBut in recent years, the government of this country has been very focused on developing a large-scale national control network or intranet, called the “National Information Network” or SHOMA. This makes governments increasingly capable of filtering and censoring data and blocking specific services, from social networks to evasive tools such as proxies and VPNs.

This is why Nahoft is intentionally designed as an application that runs locally on your device, rather than a communication platform. When the Internet is completely closed, the user needs to have downloaded the application in order to use it. But in general, Reza Ghazinouri, a strategic adviser to the Iranian government, said that as long as Google Play can still be accessed there, it will be difficult for the Iranian government to stop Nahoft. Since Google Play traffic is encrypted, Iranian surveillance cannot see which applications users have downloaded. So far, Nahoft has been downloaded 4,300 times. Ghazinouri said that the government may eventually develop its own app store and block the release of international products, but for now, this capability seems to be far away. For example, in China, Google Play is prohibited from using products from Chinese technology giants such as Huawei and selected versions of the iOS App Store.

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