A New App Helps Iranians Hide Messages in Flat View

In the midst of ever -increasing government internet control, surveillance, and censorship in Iran, a new Android app aims to give Iranians a way to speak freely.

Nahoft, which means “hidden” in Farsi, is an encryption tool that comes with up to 1,000 characters of Farsi text into a single tearful word. You can send this mélange to a friend on any communication platform – Telegram, WhatsApp, Google Chat, and more. – and run it through Nahoft on their device to figure out what you’re saying.

Released last week on Google Play by United for Iran, a San Francisco -based human rights and civil liberties group, Nahoft is set to discuss many aspects of Iran’s internet crackdown. In addition to generating coded messages, the app can also encrypt communications and embed them invisibly in image files, a method known steganography. Recipients then use Nahoft to scan the image file at their end and retrieve the hidden message.

Iranians can use end-to-end encrypted apps like WhatsApp for secure communications, but Nahoft, which is open source, there’s a significant portion of the pocket behind it if that doesn’t go. How many times has the Iranian regime enforced almost the total disappearance of the internet in particular regions or across the country, including for an entire week in November 2019. Even if there is no connection, even if you have already downloaded Nahoft, you can still use it on the local device. Enter the message you want to encrypt, and the app will scan the encoded Farsi message. From there you can write that form of useless words in a letter, or read it to another Nahoft user over the phone, and they can put it into their app to see exactly what you want to say.

“When the internet breaks down in Iran, people can’t communicate with their families inside and outside the country, and for activists everything stops,” said Firuzeh Mahmoudi, United for Iran’s executive director, who has lived until 1979 Iranian revolution and left the country when he was 12. “And increasingly the government is moving toward layered censorship, banning various digital platforms, and trying to create alternatives for international ones. services such as social media. It doesn’t look good; it’s the direction we definitely don’t want to see. So here comes the app. ”

Iran is a country with many connections. More than 57 million of the 83 million citizens use the internet. But in recent years the country’s government has focused more on developing a multi-state-controlled network, or intranet, known as the “National Information Network” or SHOMA. In particular it gives the government the ability to filter and censor data, and block specific services, from social networks to circumvention tools such as proxies and VPNs.

This is why Nahoft is deliberately designed as an app that runs locally on your device rather than a communication platform. In case of a total internet shutdown, users will have to download the app to use it. But overall, it will be difficult for the Iranian government to block Nahoft while Google Play is still accessible there, according to United for Iran strategic adviser Reza Ghazinouri. Because Google Play traffic is encrypted, Iranian spying cannot see which apps users have downloaded. So far, Naoft has been downloaded 4,300 times. It is possible, Ghazinouri said, that the government will later expand its own app store and block international offerings, but for now the capability is as far away. In China, for example, Google Play is banned in favor of offerings from Chinese tech giants like Huawei and a curated version of the iOS App Store.

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