Google and Mozilla, on Friday, said it has taken action to block the Kazakhstan government’s ability to intercept internet traffic within the country.
Google said in a statement that the companies acted after credible reports that Kazakh citizens were required to download and install a government-issued certificate on all devices and in every browser.
This certificate enabled the government to decrypt and read anything a user types or posts, including intercepting their account information and passwords, Google said.
Kazakhstan, which borders Russia and China, has the largest economy of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
The authoritarian state has only had two leaders in the past three decades.
A July report by Censored Planet, a project at the University of Michigan, said that the interception was first detected on July 17.
The report added that over 37 domains have been affected, including social media and communication websites such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Google.
According to Mozilla, in 2015, the authoritarian Central Asian state attempted to have a root certificate included in Mozilla’s trusted root store programme.
The tech company said that an attempt by the Kazakh government to force citizens to manually install its certificate failed after organisations took legal action.
A U.S-based press freedom organisation, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said that there were escalating concerns about censorship and surveillance in Kazakhstan.
The organisation noted that further blocking of news websites and internet shutdowns have been reported amid a leadership transition that Human Rights Watch described as “carefully orchestrated and highly controlled’’.
The country’s only leader since the Soviet era, Nursultan Nazarbayev, yielded the presidency to a chosen successor, career statesman and diplomat Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Tokayev promptly renamed the country’s capital to “Nur-Sultan,’’ in honour of Nazarbayev.
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