August 21, 2019 / 11:29 AM / a month ago

Google, Apple, Mozilla move to block Kazakh surveillance system

FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London, Britain January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

(Reuters) - Alphabet Inc’s Google, Apple Inc and Firefox browser maker Mozilla took steps on Wednesday to block the Kazakh government from creating an internet surveillance system using their browsers.

Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox will block a government encryption certificate that allows authorities to read anything a user types or posts using the browsers, including account information and passwords, the companies said in separate statements.

Apple also said in a statement it would take similar measures to protect the users of its Safari browser.

Kazakh authorities were not immediately available to comment.

Earlier this month, Kazakhstan said it had halted implementation of the system, the initial roll out of which was described as a test by the government.

State security officials had said its goal was to protect Kazakh users from “hacker attacks, online fraud and other kinds of cyber threats”.

The system could be deployed again “if threats emerge to national security in the form of cyber- and information attacks”, Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee said in a statement this month.

The former Soviet Central Asian nation routinely blocks websites and applications used by its critics, including Facebook and Youtube, for short periods of time.

The blocks have often coincided with public protests, the most recent wave of which took place around the time of the June 9 election which completed the transfer of power from strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev to his loyal ally Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Reporting by Neha Malara in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Kirsten Donovan

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