It's not just antivirus downloads that have export control screening

Yet blocking common tech is 'crazy' says infosec bod

Export control screening for individuals hoping to purchase everyday consumer technologies extends beyond just antivirus software downloads, according to several sources contacted by The Register.

Those who share the name of someone on a blacklist have to go through secondary screening (a bureaucratic process generally involving handing over passport ID, dates of birth or other information).

These controls apply even for something as routine as the purchase of audio plugs in cases where they share the name of individuals on a US-run blacklist. Export controls seemingly apply to goods ordered online even if they are delivered by a US firm to a US address.

Last week we wrote about export control screening for security software downloads based on the experience of someone who had difficulty downloading Sophos AV for Mac.

Sophos said the filter that tripped up Reg reader Hasan Ali was based on the International Denied Persons List. Use of the list was a routine screening procedure that it needed to follow in order to comply with various international export laws, according to the company.

In response to that story, reader James Dennis got in touch to tell us about similar problems when he tried to buy electronic components from Mouser Electronics, the online electronic components store.

The first time that I found out that a certain gentleman from Liberia shared my very Western name was when I ordered roughly $15 or so of electronic components from mouser.com.

These were simply RCA audio plugs, nothing export controlled. I was sent a form by Mouser which wanted me to declare my date of birth and where I was born.

Considering I am living in the US and ordering from a US company I found this utterly ridiculous and refused to supply the information; thus my order was cancelled.

I did receive from the "compliance officer" a screen shot of the hit on my name.

He encountered the same problem again six months later ordering a hardware security module from Thales' security division. "Now, this time I am ordering fairly advanced encryption technology so it is somewhat more justifiable, but to unstick the order I had to send a copy of my birth certificate," Dennis explained.

Mouser is yet to respond to requests to answer criticism from Dennis that export controls ought not to be applied for everyday electronic goods.

Hasan Ali – who was blocked from downloading Sophos AV for Mac – complained that the firm was applying an "anti-Muslim name filter”, although actually the blacklist is much more extensive than that, so those with Russian-sounding names and much more are potentially affected.

Ali said that Sophos's freebie scanner was still available to him through third-party sites, such as Download.com.

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