Thai authorities test software to intercept https

Thailand’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) is developing and testing software to intercept internet communications which uses a secure protocol in order to better intercept and block lèse majesté content, according to a leaked document.  

Meanwhile, Prachatai received a tip that some major ISPs have confirmed that such software is being tested. The ISPs said the software is forwarding the traffic to Facebook from the ISPs to the state's facility.  

Published by Thai Netizen Network, the document says it is MICT Order No. 163/2014, signed by Minister Pornchai Rujiprapa on 15 December 2014. The order has been in effect since 15 December last year. 

According to the junta’s sub-committee order on measures to monitor online media, the document states, the Ministry resolved to assign a “working committee on online media to monitor, screen, check, collect and analyse the dissemination of information from all kinds of online media and consider measures to prevent and suppress.” the statement said. “It is found that there are obstacles in monitoring and blocking websites using Secured Sockets Layer. The Minister resolved to provide and test the efficiency of the tool to monitor online media in order to support the work of the committee.”

In the document, the ministry assigned a committee to have authority to:

  1. oversee the testing of the system to monitor online media which use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and evaluate in order to maximize efficiency and optimise its use in Thailand;
  2. cooperate with operators, domestic Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and ISPs who provide International Internet Gateways to test the system;
  3. cooperate with relevant agencies and personnel in testing the monitoring of online media;
  4. report problems and obstacles, and recommend suggestions.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or https is a computer networking protocol that manages server authentication, client authentication, and encrypted communication between servers and clients. The SSL prevents hackers and other intruders from monitoring or obtaining information in communication content between the servers and clients.

The Thai authorities have a long record of trying to track and crack down on lèse majesté content on Facebook, which uses the SSL protocol. In late June, the junta order all ISPs to block the whole Facebook website for an hour. Although the Thai junta denied it, a major ISP later confirmed the report.

On Thursday, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha ambiguously mentioned the software. He said that Thai citizens should not be worried about the software if they did nothing wrong, although he ironically said that people do not need to worry about privacy.

In September, Prachatai reported that the authorities had bought a device or software to conduct mass surveillance in an attempt to read content under secure protocols.