Skype & Viber Could Get Blocked in Bahrain Soon

Bahrain is the latest Arab nation to consider blocking Skype and other communications services like Viber and Whatsapp. Several other countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Oman, have already blocked some of these applications, citing security concerns and a loss of telecom revenue as their primary reasons for taking action. The blocking of Skype in Bahrain could sometime during the latter half of 2013.

Countries in the region are disturbed by the fact that they cannot monitor Skype and other services. In an area which has been a hotbed of Islamic radicals, the need to shore up security has become a priority. In addition, the presence of millions of foreign workers in the region means that national telecom companies are losing money whenever expatriates use Skype or Viber to make calls or send messages to loved ones in their home country.

Many people use VoIP in Bahrain

Skype, Viber, and other similar apps function via something known as VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). These applications use the delivery system of the Internet to make calls and send text messages in much the same way that they are sent on a smartphone. It has been estimated that millions of people in the region use the services, and one study commissioned by the Bahrain government revealed that 100,000 people had used VoIP during a period of four days to make calls, send photos, and otherwise interact with people outside of the region.

If Skype is blocked in Bahrain many people will be affected. One solution that people are using in preparation for a state-imposed block is a VPN account. Using a VPN lets users access Skype and other blocked services by encrypting the connection. When the connection is encrypted the filters used by Internet Service providers to block sites will not be able to block the request to open a page etc since it will not be able to identify what a user is accessing or trying to access.

Blocking encrypted communication in Bahrain

Another concern is that Bahrain will eventually seek to block Skype and Viber because of the secure aspects of these services. VoIP services typically use a fairly high level of encryption to protect users from having their data stolen. This encryption can make it difficult for government officials to observe communications.

Saudi Arabia initially sought to force VoIP services to drop the encryption of data in order to spy on the communications of users. Such a concession is unlikely to be granted by Skype on account of the furor that would be generated among its customer base. The only solution left for countries like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia is to ban the services outright.

Moral values and traditions in Bahrain

The government of Bahrain has stated that the use of Skype threatens the “moral values and traditions” of the Islamic region. Obviously, some users engage in communications which would be accepted in the West but frowned upon in Bahrain. Exchanging this kind of communication in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia can be construed as a violation of law. While there are no specific regulations which govern what constitutes a moral breach online, a lack of specifics has never deterred these countries from taking harsh legal action when behavior is deemed immoral.

Bahrain and other Islamic provinces like Saudi Arabia do not regard the law and Islam to be different concepts. They are considered to be joined at the hip, and Islamic Law is what tends to govern the court system.

How to use Skype in Bahrain

If a ban of Skype, Viber, and Whatsapp does move forward in Bahrain, there is still a way that nationals and expatriates can access the site. The method for doing this involves what is known as a VPN, or Virtual Private Network.

Almost all Internet-ready devices offered today come with a built-in VPN client. Windows, MAC, the iOS, and Android platforms all include a VPN client. In order to make it work, a user needs to establish a VPN account and then configure the VPN client with the network credentials. This is a relatively simple process which can be done in a matter of minutes.

Once the VPN is set up, a user in Bahrain can appear to be accessing the Internet from the US or another area where Skype is not blocked. Skype will register the IP address presented by the VPN and conclude that the user is in that geographical location. At the same time, since traffic is encrypted over the VPN, filters used by Bahrain would not know you are bypassing the restrictions.

In addition to being able to access Skype in Bahrain, VPN’s use a very complex level of encryption. This encryption protects sensitive data from prying eyes. In this way, users do not have to worry about whether or not they are violating the moral standards of Bahrain by sending photos, messages, or other communications that the region finds offensive.

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Viber Banned in Saudi Arabia! Are Whatsapp & Skype Next?

The banning of Viber by Saudi Arabia is just the latest in an ongoing attempt by countries in the region to limit or block the usage of communication applications. The UAE only recently lifted a ban on Skype, and that service is still blocked in Oman. The Saudi regulator of telecom services contends that Viber is difficult for the state to monitor, and that Saudi telecom operators are losing revenue from international calls and text messages. The ban of Viber took effect in early June.

Those who live and work in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding countries in the region are finding ways around this dilemma, primarily through the use of VPN accounts. A VPN allows users to surf the web without disclosing their geographical location. Viber, Skype, and similar services are typically blocked. Using a VPN would encrypt the connection and provide you access to  the services blocked.

Why would Saudi Arabia ban Viber?

Those who subscribe to Viber can make calls and chat over the Internet in much the same way as they can over Skype. In addition, certain files can be shared by Viber users. The popularity of services like Viber, Whatsapp, and Skype has increased because the cost of using the service is much cheaper than international smartphone service.

Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia is a country that still exerts a considerable amount of control over Internet freedom. The state has difficulty exerting that control where Viber is concerned. Concerted efforts are made by the Saudi government to regulate how individuals use the Internet. Some of these efforts are probably in response to security concerns voiced by other nations. The Saudi region has been at the center of much controversy in recent years, and by monitoring the Internet in a strict way Saudi Arabia would seem to be making a good faith gesture on the topic of security concerns.

Some argue that Islamist militants are using social networks and services like Viber to encourage unrest and network amongst themselves. Whatever the reason, it does not appear likely that Saudi Arabia will relinquish control of Internet services and applications in the near future.

Expatriates in Saudi Arabia affected by Viber Ban

One problem with banning Viber and other communication services in Saudi Arabia is that at any given time there are many expatriates working in the country. These individuals hail from the USA, UK, and a host of other nations. In many cases, the most economical way for foreigners working in the region to maintain contact with their home country is through a service like Viber.

Viber allows expatriates to talk to family members at home, send messages, and otherwise communicate without incurring international costs on their smartphones. Many of these individuals are using a VPN account to access services like Viber which are not banned in their own countries. There are over 9 million expatriates in Saudi Arabia, and many of these foreign workers rely on Viber and Skype for essential communication services.

Are Skype and Whatsapp next?

Despite the fact that the UAE has lifted a ban on Skype, it seems very possible that individuals in Saudi Arabia could find themselves unable to access Skype and Whatsapp in the near future. There is no reason to believe that the Saudi government would not take a similar action against these communication applications because they essentially provide the same services as Viber.

Blocking Skype and Whatsapp in Saudi Arabia would be a deathblow for communications services in the region. Skype is currently blocked by Oman, and other countries in the region such as Bahrain are also considering blocking Skype and Viber.

The protection of a VPN

When the Saudi telecom regulator announced the ban of Viber, the agency also hinted that using the applications could be a violation of local laws. This vague reference to illegal activity is a little scary when one considers how easily laws can be created and enforced in Saudi Arabia.

If one were to attempt to access the services, even if a website indicated the service was blocked, there is a possibility that this would be a violation of local Saudi law. The only way to endure anonymity when using Viber in Saudi Arabia is through the use of a VPN account.

A VPN account is easy to obtain and affordable. Windows, MAC, Android, and the iOS all come with a built-in VPN client which allows a user to setup their VPN account on a variety of devices. All that is required are the credentials supplied by the VPN provider and users can begin to access the web securely without revealing their geographical location. Many VPN accounts even allow the user to choose an IP from different areas.

It is much better to be safe than sorry when using Viber in Saudi Arabia. A VPN gives Internet users the freedom to continue using the service even though it is currently inaccessible from a Saudi IP address. If you would like to read about the whatsapp privacy policy click here.

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Egypt Targets Voip And Blocks Skype

The war on Internet freedom took another dark turn at the beginning of October 2015 with social media reporting that Egypt would block Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) applications. Services that could be restricted in Egypt include Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber. source

Vodafone sent a message to its customer base stating that Skype has been blocked in Egypt until further notice, which serves to demonstrate that Internet providers in Egypt and other countries can levy blocks without any advance notice. Oman and the UAE have also enacted blocks of Skype in the past. In the UAE Skype-to-Skype is now permitted but WhatsApp and Viber remain unavailable.

Skype users in Egypt were quick to voice their displeasure on Twitter. While Mobinil, one of Egypt’s primary providers of mobile phone services, blocked Skype on its 3G networks last year, ADSL (a type of DSL broadband technology) Internet users began to report that they did not have access to Skype, WhatsApp, or Viber.

Why did Egypt block Skype and other VoIP Apps?

Telecommunication leaders in Egypt were quick to explain the VoIP blocks by claiming that significant financial losses by the telecom companies necessitated the blocks. Their claim is the same one that has been offered before in places like Oman and the UAE. Telecom operations, many of which are state-owned, claim that VoIP services discourage regular calling and text messaging.

When Skype and WhatsApp were questioned about the move they did not respond to initial queries. This is not uncommon given the possibility that VoIP could be unblocked on a moment’s notice. Companies do not want to do anything that would jeopardize their VoIP Apps being used in Egypt in the future.

A statement was issued by the National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority in Egypt, however, that dismissed reports of a Skype block as rumors.

Can a VPN unblock Skype in Egypt?

For Internet users that read the VPN Accounts blog and other news outlets, threats against online freedom do not come as a surprise. These individuals know that purchasing VPN service is a must for expats and other individuals that plan to be travelling abroad. As we stated above, blocks of VoIP apps can literally occur without advance warning. Individuals that have not previously secured their VPN service before arriving in a host country may find themselves without their preferred VoIP service.

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01

Sign upBuy an affordable VPN account.

02

ConnectConfigure the VPN on your device.

03

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