Apple, Google, and Mozilla have taken steps to block the rollout of a controversial encryption software to Kazakh Internet users issued by the government, which critics say web users are obliged to install as part of a government move to monitor their online activities.
In their statements issued on August 21, the Internet giants said they introduced "technical solutions" to block the government-issued “security certificate” called Qaznet.
Google and Mozilla said in their statements that their Chrome and Firefox search engines will block Qaznet, which allows Kazakh authorities to read anything a user types or posts using the browsers, including account information and passwords.
Apple also said in a statement it would take similar measures to protect the users of its Safari browser.
Since July, Internet users across Kazakhstan have been receiving messages from telecom operators asking them to install Qaznet on their smartphones, computers, and other devices connected to the Internet.
Users who refused to install it reported difficulties with access, in particular to social networks and instant messengers.
While security officials claimed the certificates were aimed at protecting mobile-phone users from cyberthreats such as hackers and online fraud, many legal analysts and technical experts worried the government could use them to monitor private communications by going around encryption walls commonly found in software applications.
Amid criticism, the Kazakh government halted the system on August 7,saying it was a test ordered by President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev for security reasons.
The authorities added though that the system could be deployed again if "outer intrusions into Kazakhstan’s information space" increase.