Haystack stops tests of Iran anti-censor software amid security concerns

Haystack, a company that has created software designed to circumvent Iranian government censors, has stopped testing its program amid criticism of faulty security.

Haystack founder Austin Heap said in an interview Monday that concerns about how his much-touted software program works and whether it’s secure were “valid.”

“For the time being, we are going to stop human testing and rely instead on machine testing,” Heap said.

He said in a blog Monday that the software is being reviewed by a third party and that testing will resume if it passes muster.

The move comes after Foreign Policy (a division of The Washington Post Co.) technology writer Evgeny Morozov and engineers said that lax security in Haystack could hurt users in Iran by exposing them to government authorities.

About two dozen Iranians have been testing the year-old anti-censorship technology that allows the use of proxies on the Internet to disguise user identities.

“We have been very clear with our testers about risks, and from my understanding there may be only one case where risks were not in writing,” Heap said. In response to that case, the nonprofit firm came up with a disclosure policy to ensure users were properly notified of the risks associated with using the technology under government censorship, he said.


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