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.


Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022