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Google accuses Turkey of blocking access by ‘DNS interception’

Published time: March 31, 2014 21:50
AFP Photo / Georges Gobet

AFP Photo / Georges Gobet

US web giant Google has accused Turkish internet providers of mimicking their Domain Name System (DNS) service, citing “credible reports” and research. The tactic allows it to effectively block access to Google services in Turkey, the company said.

As Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose AKP party was triumphant in Sunday’s local elections, on Monday promised that his political opponents “will pay the price,” it has become clear that Ankara’s ban of popular Google services used by the opposition may last for good.

However, even before the crucial “confidence” vote took place, the US company claimed that the whole Turkish internet is becoming Google-free.

Citing “credible reports… confirmed with our own research,” a statement published on Google Online Security Blog said that “Google’s Domain Name System (DNS) service has been intercepted by most Turkish ISPs.”

The statement compared DNS servers, which for internet users “translate” numeric Internet Protocol (IP) addresses (e.g., 173.194.32.174) to convenient literal addresses (google.com) to “looking up a phone number in a phone book.”

“Imagine if someone had changed out your phone book with another one, which looks pretty much the same as before, except that the listings for a few people showed the wrong phone number,” Google said in its blog.

It now looks like a similar situation has happened in Turkey’s internet, as “Turkish ISPs have set up servers that masquerade as Google’s DNS service,” the statement said.

Photo from twitter/@HMCSKNS

The Turkish government recently cracked down on Google-owned Twitter and YouTube, which have been widely used as media war tools in many of the recent unrests globally and have been perceived by Erdogan as the cradle of dissent, blocking their use in the country.

Many Turkish protesters managed to get around the bans by using Google’s free public DNS service instead of the ones given out by their internet providers. The DNS servers’ addresses (8.8.8.8 for primary and 8.8.4.4 for secondary) have been spread by and taken on banners of the anti-government movement and inscribed on the naked chests of FEMEN activists.

However, it took mere days for the loophole to be shut by Turkish ISPs, with those trying to reach Google services now reportedly redirected to a government site explaining the ban.

EU and US officials have condemned the social media blockade in Turkey, with EU Commision Vice President Neelie Kroes calling it “another desperate and depressing move” on his Twitter page and US Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf claiming that Washington has been “very strongly saying [to Turkish officials] that they need to stop doing this.”

It remains unclear, though, if such statements directed at the West’s NATO ally remain only on paper, as Turkey had successfully imposed YouTube bans over “insulting” videos before. The most recent cutoff of to access was triggered by explosive uploads of alleged leaked audiotapes of senior Turkish officials’ conversations, in which a false pretext for starting a military intervention in Syria was discussed.

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