The Most Internet Restrictive Countries on the Planet

Most Internet Restrictive Countries
Most Internet Restrictive Countries

Top 10 Most Internet Restrictive Countries On the Planet!

Those who live in the United States enjoy exceptional freedom on the internet. Aside from the occasional 404 error, we are pretty much free to surf wherever we want. That’s not to say we should but we certainly have the opportunity. That’s not the case across the globe.

Freedom House is a non-profit organization that has been promoting freedom and democracy planet-wide since 1941. In an annual report on Freedom on the Internet, they found some interesting and somewhat eye-opening facts.

  • Over two-thirds of internet users live in nations where criticism of the government or ruling party is censored and/or punishable.
  • Arrests were made in 38 countries over social media posts in the past year.
  • In 2016, internet freedoms decreased globally for the sixth consecutive year.

In fact, when the Freedom House assessed the internet as a whole, they found only 24% of users had access that they considered a “free” internet.

How do countries restrict freedoms on the internet? They can use technology, blocking what the government believes are divisive or morally corrupt websites. They can essentially create their own national intranet, restricting access to global websites all together. They can also use legislation to restrict what is legal to post and follow up with fines or even prison time. Many monitor and track usage from those on the internet.

There is good news in that 14 countries involved in the survey actually improved internet freedoms, even if it was slight. The United States was among those 14. In fact, the U.S. scored 4th globally when it comes to freedom on the net. Here are the ten top-scoring countries.

  1. Estonia
  2. Iceland
  3. Canada
  4. United States
  5. Germany
  6. Australia
  7. Japan
  8. United Kingdom
  9. France
  10. Georgia

What countries are the most restrictive when it comes to Freedom on the internet? Let’s take a somewhat subjective look.

Most Internet Restrictive Countries

The Ten Worst Rated Offenders For Freedom on the Internet

The specific countries on the list may not be as much of a surprise as the extent they go to in implementing their restrictions.

  1. China – China aggressively monitors internet usage, filtering and redirecting searches, blocking websites and even “erasing” undesirable content. In 2015, the Chinese Wikipedia was blocked to citizens and more than 60 regulations currently restrict the internet. Users are often self-policed as the country creates an atmosphere that individuals are “being watched” when using the internet.
  2. Cuba – Cuba’s government controls the country’s internet access points and a special permit is required for use. The government-sponsored “internet” is highly restricted, employing IP tracking, keyword search term filtering, search history tracking, and emails are closely monitored. Only those friendly to the government have the ability to upload information. International visitors can access the world-wide internet but allowing locals access is illegal.
  3. Ethiopia – The Ethio Telecom and Ethiopian Telecommunication Agency control all access in this African nation, including licensing internet cafes. Internet cafes must have all screens visible to the operator of the cafe so content can be better monitored. It is illegal to circumvent their national licensing program. Political dissent is virtually invisible online. Even VoIP services like Skype are restricted. Government surveillance is common and expected.
  4. Iran – Iran has an extensive amount of internet users, with recent estimates reaching approximately 50 million. These users, however, don’t have access to some of the world’s most popular websites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Bloggers are required to register and using an email service outside of the government-sponsored one is not allowed. ISPs face heavy fines if they do not follow the government’s restricted list of blocked websites that includes over 15,000 sites that have been blacklisted.
  5. North Korea – While internet access is available in North Korea, only government officials and foreign visitors have access. The North Korean “intranet”, known as Kwangmyong, is available for the general population. North Korean access to the internet has become increasingly restrictive in recent years. The country itself offers very few websites with only about 30 such North Korean websites in existence.
  6. Pakistan – Following a contest on Facebook promoting the submission of drawings of the Prophet Mohammad, Pakistan put in place increasingly restrictive internet regulations and access, including blocking the popular social media website. The country uses Netsweeper type technology to filter both political and social content.
  7. Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia blocks hundreds of thousands of websites for what they claim are mainly cultural and religious reasons. Many suspect, however, that many sites are being restricted to re-direct users to government-backed websites to limit commerce outside of the country. Gambling and pornography sites are strictly banned and citizens are encouraged to report other “objectionable” websites. Apparently, much of the population doesn’t mind the censorship as it is estimated 1,200 websites are reported every day to the government.
  8. Syria – Syria controls internet access not only through blocking and filtering but by aggressively punishing violators with arrest. Bloggers who express anti-government sentiments may be arrested for putting national security in jeopardy. Users at internet cafes must show ID and have their usage monitored and reported. For over ten years, Syria has been noted as one of the planet’s worst offenders when it comes to internet freedoms.
  9. Tunisia – All of Tunisia’s internet traffic flows through a central data facility where uploaded material, emails, and personal data is monitored. While still restrictive, access has eased greatly since the Tunisian Revolution.
  10. Vietnam – The government of Vietnam requires large companies like Google and Yahoo to turn over information on bloggers to continue to be available in the country. The government also strictly controls information that may be considered anti-government or pro-democracy.

The next time you encounter a 404 error or a website you are trying to pull up takes just a few extra seconds to load, remember, it could be worse. While our internet freedoms could be better, they could be far worse. In some countries, they are.

Stop! Thief! Online Identity Theft

Online Identity Theft
Online Identity Theft

Stop! Thief! Online Identity Theft.

How Your Identity is Being Stolen

If you’ve had your identity stolen, you know the problems it can cause. Even a simple unauthorized use of a credit or debit card can cost you hours upon hours of frustration, sometimes tying up needed funds. The U.S. Department of Justice says about 18 million people per year are victims of at least some form of identity theft. While many of these thefts are conducted on a massive scale, others are much more targeted. We may have a vision that these hackers are sophisticated technological wonder-kids or they originate from Nigeria but often the story is much closer to home and individualized. In some cases, it’s not all that complicated. In a recent highly publicized case, hackers obtained confidential data through a server using a default “admin” username and password that was never changed.

Stopping identity theft takes with understanding how thieves are getting your information from you.

Data Theft from Large Companies

This is the most publicized area of identity theft because it affects so many people and the theft is out of our individual control. Data breaches have occurred at companies ranging from retail stores to the recent breach at a major credit reporting agency. To conduct commerce today, we must be connected digitally these consumer-oriented companies need to verify identities. This means our personal information is stored on massive servers that are not only available to authorized employees and management but potentially to their technical contractors and, of course, hackers.

Skimmers

If you’ve ever used a credit or debit card at a fuel pump, grocery store, retail store, ATM or elsewhere, you may have been susceptible to a card skimmer. These skimmers or “card readers” commonly fit over the original card strip or insert without impairing the transaction. The skimmers read the data from your card’s magnetic strip and either store them to be retrieved by the thieves or digitally send them to a nearby device. In some cases, cameras are attached on or near them to see the PIN you have entered. Some skimmers use pads that fit over the original keypad of the device to gain your pin. While credit card chips are designed to limit this theft, many of the chipped cards still contain a strip to make them versatile enough to use in non-chipped machines. While skimmers may be difficult to detect, inspect any credit card machine closely before use and attempt to move the cardholder to see if it is the original. Cover one hand with the other when entering your PIN and make sure no one is looking over your shoulder.

Phishing

Phishing is one of the original forms of identity theft in the digital age, although today it is more sophisticated than ever. Phishing usually involves the thief sending out a large amount of bulk or spam emails, “phishing” for a bite. These emails may urge you to update your personal information and direct you to a fake website where you are encouraged to input your personal information voluntarily. These faux websites may even include the company name in the URL and are often designed to closely mimic a company’s original website. Phishing tactics may also claim you have an inheritance, won a contest or offer some other financial incentive to get your personal information.

Vishing

Vishing is essentially voice phishing using the telephone. The caller will often pose as a representative from a bank or credit card company and use suspected identity theft as the purpose of the call. They will ask you to verify your personal information. Instead, call your bank or credit card directly and ask if your information has been compromised.

Social Media and Internet Searches

There is already much data about you available on the internet without adding to the problem voluntarily on social media. Many users commonly display their birth dates, emails, places of work, education, work experience, and even phone numbers and addresses online. They can easily pose as a “friend” to get even more information. If you use social media, be careful of what data you make available and make sure only invited friends have access to your profile.

Online Identity Theft

Handing Your Credit Card to Someone Else

When you hand your credit card to a server at a restaurant, a clerk at a hotel or even let a family member borrow it, you are increasing the odds of identity theft. The front and back can be quickly and discretely photographed, videoed or copied for unauthorized use. New cards can be created from the data on your magnetic strip and all it takes is a simple card reader that can be plugged into any computer.

Trash

If you don’t have a paper shredder, get one and use it. Many identity thefts come from your trash that contains personal mail and account data from banks, credit cards, and even tax forms. A credit card statement alone contains a wealth of information that when combined with just a few more pieces of info can lead to problems. Pre-approved credit card offers are a must-shred item.

Regular, Old Fashioned, Theft

When you realize how much personal information is contained in your wallet, cellphone, and even in your car’s glove compartment you will take better steps to protect it. Protecting your cash and credit cards isn’t enough today. Not when thieves will find your personal information just as, if not more, valuable. Always know where your phone, wallet and personal is located.

Being careful about identity theft is not paranoia, it is prudent. Be cautious about how and where you share your personal data including cell phone calls in public places. Make sure you only share info on websites with a secure Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (https) address that designates your information is encrypted. If you conduct e-commerce on a website, make sure you are protecting your customer’s information safely with encryption. Be cautious and minimize your risk of identity theft.

The Serious Business of Guarding the Images Used on Your Website

How To Protect Your Images
How To Protect Your Images

How To Protect Your Images

For those of us who have lived through the early, “Wild West” days of the internet, we can recall the frequent lawlessness of the experience. It was not uncommon at all to come across “sharing” websites for the distribution of music, images, films, software, and other intellectual property without authorization of the rightful owners. This was, and continues to be, theft, pure and simple. It didn’t take long for lawyers to get involved. Courts quickly agreed that online intellectual theft is no different from stealing someone’s car. Companies from software producers to movie production houses began pursuing those they suspected were guilty of it.

While such dark places are still available online, more and more companies and individuals are taking steps to protect themselves. This includes those involved in the construction of websites. After all, if you’ve taken the time to make sure a website was designed and constructed using completely legal and authorized images, or more importantly, if you created the images or took the photography yourself, you don’t want someone else coming along and taking them. It’s not quite the “Wild West” it once was but it is still a significant problem and serious business. There are ways, however, of protecting yourself and your images.

Where to Start?

You can start by seeing if you have a problem with stolen images. This can simply be accomplished by typing the name of any images you use into the Google image search. Some who “borrow” images or graphics, however, know they can lessen their chances of being caught by changing the name of the image file. The Google image search may not turn up your photo or image. You can search for more generic names that may fit your image if you are inclined to investigate further.

In a Google image search, seeing the image as used on your site should be expected but if it is an original image you created or a photo you have taken and someone else is using it without your knowledge, it can be a problem. This is likely because you did not take the necessary steps to protect it.

Now, you may say to yourself “Hey, but isn’t that like blaming me for not locking my house and allowing someone to steal my property?” Perhaps. But let’s also just add that it is always better to make sure your house is locked, to begin with. In this case, let’s make sure your images are as safe as possible.

“How To Protect Your Images”

How To Protect Your Images

Better Protecting Your Images

You can take steps to protect your images, but just as locking the door on your house won’t prevent someone from entering your home, most steps just make it tougher for an image theft to occur. Here are some of the more common steps you can take in protecting your images online.

  • Disable the right-click copy option. One of the first skills we learn on a computer is that by right-clicking, we are given the option to “copy”. It didn’t take long for us to learn it works on website images as well if they are unprotected. WordPress has an easy to download and use plug-in that will accomplish this for you. The plug-in also has some other clever protective services.
  • Disable hotlinkingHotlinking is the nasty little practice of someone using both the benefits of your image and your bandwidth to share that image. For the most part, it is considered illegal but, of course, that doesn’t stop some from engaging in the practice. While disabling hotlinking may not totally prevent someone from using an image, at least it will prevent the indignity of having them use your bandwidth to do it. To disable hot linking in WordPress, use an FTP program and go to the main directory folder and open the .htaccess file. Cut and paste the following code into the .htaccess file:

/* hotlink blocking */

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$

RewriteCond %{HTTP REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?yourwebsite.com [NC]

RewriteCond %{HTTP REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.com [NC]

RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [F]

Of course, replace “yourwebsite.com” in the 4th line of the coding with the name of your website. This will prevent someone from hotlinking to your image while the 5th line still makes your image available to Google for search purposes.

  • Use a watermark. Watermarks on an image have been protecting photographs since long before the internet. A Watermark is a discrete but visible marking over the image that usually bears the name of the owner. Most photographers use them on proofs before clients purchase the non-watermarked prints. They are still an effective way to protect your images but can be distracting to your own viewers. Those skilled at photoshopping have also been known to be able to cover watermarks.
  • Place a DMCA badge on your website. DMCA is dedicated to stopping thieves from stealing content from websites. While they have a suite of products, you can get started by placing a DMCA badge on your page that will deter theft. With a registered badge, you have the resources behind you to take down any content that is used without your approval.
  • Place a copyright notice on your website or on images. You automatically have the right to any content created for your website. By placing a copyright notice on your website you are letting others know that you know this. You should also keep proof that you created the content. While this can sometimes be difficult to prove or enforce, it is another form of locking the doors on your house. It is very easy to do, so do it.

While sharing images without the permission of the owner can be problematic, sharing solid, helpful information about making your website secure can be very helpful. If you have found this article useful or if you know someone who might find it interesting then, please feel free to share it.

It’s Easy Going “Green”

Green Web Hosting - Going Green
Green Web Hosting - Going Green

Going Green

Operating on an environmentally friendly basis is becoming more important for both individuals and companies. From using recyclable shopping bags to more energy efficient automobiles, we are all taking steps in protecting our planet. Even if you do not have a bricks and mortar business, you may be surprised at some of the steps you can take and some of the benefits you can enjoy by operating in environmentally responsible ways.

For large and small companies alike, operating “green” is not only the right thing to do for the Earth, it is becoming increasingly important for the profitability of your company.

What Is Operating Green?

Operating green means looking at every aspect of your company and choosing more energy efficient and environmentally friendly options. Operating green means choosing more efficient lighting, reusing or recycling waste, using more fuel efficient vehicles, and looking for more energy efficient power options.

There is one critical step in operating your business on a green basis that is relatively simple to take. It is choosing green companies when selecting your vendors. Choosing environmentally friendly resources can make it easy for your company to become green.

Ways Operating “Green” Is Good for Your Business

When you select partner companies who are operating in an environmentally friendly way, you begin to build a network of green vendors. This alone makes you a greener company, even if your business is limited in what it can do directly to become more Earth friendly. This is particularly true of digital and internet-based companies who may not have a large brick and mortar presence.

Operating green and using green partners is good for your company in multiple ways:

  • It will likely save you money. It is pretty simple, saving energy saves you money. Business and vendors who operate in environmentally friendly ways frequently operate more efficiently. This often makes them more cost-effective and competitively priced.
  • It enhances your marketing. Promoting your green initiatives can help position your company better in its marketing. More consumers and businesses are in search of companies to partner with who operate in Earth friendly ways. By making green choices internally and with your vendor partners, you will likely attract more consumers. Displaying a Green Seal on your website can attract like-minded customers.
  • It is the right thing to do. Most of us understand that being less wasteful, saving energy, and recycling is the right thing to do. Making environmentally sustainable choices in your business will make you feel better about how you operate and make your potential customers feel better about working with you.

For those in search of green web hosting, it seems Iceland may be the perfect location.

Green Energy and Web Hosting in Iceland - Going Green

Green Energy and Web Hosting in Iceland

More businesses are discovering the green benefits of web hosting in Iceland. Why is choosing hosting in this secluded country a popular choice for companies looking to operate green? There are two important reasons.

  1. A cool climate. Keeping servers cool in a data center is critical to their uninterrupted operation. Servers themselves create heat and, of course, there’s the outside temperatures to manage. Air conditioning in data centers in popular locations like New York and other large cities use a significant amount of energy. This also contributes to the costs of hosting there. Iceland’s cooler climate uses less air conditioning and less electricity.
  2. Cheap, renewable energy. Iceland is noted for its renewable energy initiatives. As energy use for data centers increases across the world, this is a country that is making the most of renewable resources. Iceland is also noted for its low energy costs, especially when compared to large cities. Hydroelectric and geothermal power supply the vast majority of energy in the country with fossil fuels accounting for less than .2% of energy production.

With energy contributing as the single largest expense for data centers across the globe, it is easy to see why more companies are selecting Iceland web hosting.

Choosing Orange to be Green

OrangeWebsite.com is your 100% green web hosting solution. Our data center is located in Iceland, using geothermal and hydroelectric power to run our servers. We operate in other environmentally responsible ways as well. Most of our staff operates remotely from home, reducing traffic, fuel use, emissions, and use of building space and energy. Not only are we supporting green initiatives, we are trying to reverse the effects of over-population and pollution by participating in the Canope Project. This project is replenishing rain forests by planting 250-1000 new trees each month. Placing our Green Site seal on your website lets your visitors know they are working with an environmentally responsible organization.

For affordable, socially, and environmentally smart web hosting with a guaranteed 99.9% uptime, contact OrangeWebsite.com, where it’s easy being green.

Net Neutrality Violations – Protecting Your Privacy

Net Neutrality Violation
Net Neutrality Violation

One piece of news that’s worth noting these days in terms of how it affects those who worry about anonymity in their sites and in their browsing is the news about Net Neutrality in the United States.

Current News Related to Net Neutrality

The refrain in the United States is about “removing regulations” over and over, regardless of the effect this has on anonymity. Regardless of your views on regulations, a case can be made that net neutrality laws are one area where regulation may be helpful.

Essentially, net neutrality is the idea that you shouldn’t allow corporations such as Internet Service Providers impose a kind of monopoly on the Internet that allows them to impose their will over other sites and browsers, ruining the idea of an Open and Free Internet. This can manifest itself in a variety of different ways. For example, some people are worried that ISPs that don’t have to deal with regulations forcing a neutral approach might favor some web traffic over others.

If the ISP owns or has partnered with a particular video service, for example, they might let traffic using that video service go faster and work better than other options. Additionally, it’s possible that you might have concerns about the privacy of information moving through the Internet over your ISP if there aren’t rules there to ensure that private information about you is properly protected.

For example, some laws make it so that your ISP can sell data about you to other companies so that they know what you buy in terms of products as well as other information that can be used against you in various different ways.

Net Neutrality Violation

Reactions and Risks

Obviously, the Internet has a strong response to this type of policy making whenever it happens, or at least it often does. Many sites like Google and Reddit, for example, add advertisements to their front page that talk about the dangers of losing Net Neutrality on times when the news about it isn’t good. This is the level of interest and importance that the matter is often afforded.

This is something that often affects not just the United States, but many different areas. Obviously, the direct effects will be in the U.S. when it comes to local regulations there about Net Neutrality, but just about every area will be at risk, sooner or later, of having some law that frays these freedoms. Plus, even beyond direct effects, occurrences like those in the U.S. may have many indirect effects.

For example, the United States tends to have a lot of soft influence over many parts of the rest of the world. Other countries may seek to emulate them. Plus, if ISPs can sell data, then it’s possible that this could end up making its way to copyright holders, governments, and other third parties who may seek to use this data against people who would rather remain private.

It’s hard to say just how far down the rabbit hole it will all go in the end. That’s why it’s important to maintain vigilance in fighting such attacks on Net Neutrality on a community level. However, it’s also important to remain cognizant of the law and to also fight against it on a personal level if this becomes necessary. You really don’t want to end up being left out in the lurch because you failed to account for a change in a local or international law.

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Net Neutrality, Web Hosting, and Slippery Slopes

What all of this means, practically, is that you need to be cautious when it comes to doing any business online. This includes all parts of online interactions including browsing as well as web hosting. This is because it looks like in the future, it[‘s possible that there may be time periods where you will be unable to rely on your ISP to keep your information safe. There may be web hosting sites that may end up being unreliable as well.

If you choose sites that are reliably secure, both in how they handle encryption and in the way that they choose to relate to anonymity. Essentially, you need a hosting site that comes down firmly on the side of the customer when it comes to protecting their data and anonymity if you’re going to run a website in an age of increasing exposure. Sites like OrangeWebsite and others will help to make sure that you stay safe no matter what happens with Net Neutrality laws across the world.

It’s hard to say just how bad things can get, after all. Plus, even if they stay safe in some areas, they may not stay that way in others, and laws can always change at the drop of a hat. This is why it’s so important to make sure that you’re covered. Many in the U.S. were highly surprised by the development of ISPs claiming the right to sell the data of their customers to third parties, after all.

The whole thing seemed to come out of nowhere, and it could be a sign of worse and worse things to come. The more that those who want to decrease your anonymity for their own benefit find that they can get away with, the further they may be willing to go. By far, the best course is to get prepared to protect yourself early.

For more information about OrangeWebsite, please make sure to contact us today.