Internet, online banking and censure in Iran

Internet is filtered by the government; some web sites like Facebook are blocked (since the Arabic Spring). Other services are limited from western countries, I think here about online payment. I had to renew the hosting of my website while in Iran. I had a lot of difficulties using Paypal to pay this bill. Recognizing you are in Iran, they don’t allow any payment directly.

There are however always work-around, either using a network proxy or browser doing so (like “Tor” recommended by my hosts) or a VPN. A proxy is basically a server placed in some western countries and serves as intermediate for all communications which are tunneled and encrypted (in case of Tor). Using such a proxy via Tor is automatic and anonymous.  A VPN –Virtual Private Network – is even better, you first connect actively to a server based in a western countries identified by a login and password which will serves as proxy. This however means you have to get this identification service. That is the most interesting point: the service is provided by Iranians in Iran, you have to pay them for an authentication, so they have an official bank account. But it is still a mystery who they are and why their bank account is still valid. Some think they are the professional working in the government telecommunication companies…

Using Tor is easier, but Paypal does not like the anonymous proxy: you have to change your password many times because Paypal identifies you comes from another place, and even so, they refused the payment via Visa. Fortunately, in Paypal, you can use bank direct transfer as alternative to credit card, and this is the way I used.

A last annoyance about online banking is not related with Iran but with Germany where I have my bank accounts: when you do any operation online, the bank system requires a TAN –Transaction Authorization Number. Some banks are working with an indexed TAN list where you pick up the number in a paper list previously send my post mail. Other banks (like Postbank) replaced the paper list by mTAN where the TAN is sent by SMS. My German SIM card not being recognized in Iran, mTAN is a no go. That is why I applied before leaving for a physical token you plug on your computer which generates the TAN. Unfortunately, I applied for that only in April, thinking having the token will be enough. No, after you enter the Serial ID of you token online, the Postbank send you an activation code. The main issue for me is this letter is sent with ID verification: only I could pick up the letter in the Post office showing my personal ID. But I got this letter too late, after leaving Germany. I tried an authorization letter (Vollmacht) with a friend but it did not work, I am still dealing with the Postbank services by Email to get rid of this code…

Fortunately, I have another bank account for which the iTAN is enough, so I could pay my bill with it.

Other telecommunication filtering is proceeded for the TV. As said, the women must wear a head cover by law. This applies to the TV programs as well. For the foreign-made programs, the women should behave decently: each scene with too much skin is cut, or sometimes even modified by complex (and expensive) image processing algorithms. I have been told they did so for “Lost”…  The majority of programs are however just dubbed.

Moreover, the reception of some programs over satellite is not very good; some say the government interfere the signal. In order to know where I took my pictures, I am using a GPS logger. The battery But its battery used to last a few days, but in Iran it lasts only a few hours, as if it would need much more calculations to receive the signals. Maybe here as well some interference on the GPS signals done by the Iranian government…

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