What you need to know
- Apple is one of several web browser makers to block a root certificate used by the Kazakhstan government to spy on residents in the capital.
Apple and several other browser makers have blocked a root certificate used by the Kazakhstan government to spy on residents in the capital.
Browser makers Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla, have banned today a root certificate that was being used by the Kazakhstan government to intercept and decrypt HTTPS traffic for residents in the country's capital, the city of Nur-Sultan (formerly Astana).
The certificate had been in use since December 6, 2020, when Kazakh officials forced local internet service providers to block Nur-Sultan residents from accessing foreign sites unless they had a specific digital certificate issued by the government installed on their devices.
While users were able to access most foreign-hosted sites, access was blocked to sites like Google, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Netflix, unless they had the certificate installed.
According to the report, Kazakh officials claim the move was a "cybersecurity training exercise for government agencies", noting that cyberattacks on the nation had increased 2.7 times during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the report notes, however, this makes no sense:
The government's explanation did, however, make zero technical sense, as certificates can't prevent mass cyber-attacks and are usually used only for encrypting and safeguarding traffic from third-party observers.
The move from Apple and co. means browsers will not use the offending certificates, meaning Kazakh officials will be unable to intercept and decrypt data using the tools. The report says this is the second time such a tool has been blocked in the country, the last one in August 2019.