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Ukraine rolls out system to auto-block ‘malicious’ websites


Mar 6, 2023

Officially, the system will be used to target scammers, while critics warn that it may result in even tighter online censorship

Ukrainian authorities have rolled out an automatic system to “filter out” malicious websites, used for online scamming and phishing schemes. The system was introduced on January 30 and enforced on Thursday, with all the Internet providers in the country obliged to use it.

The new system is expected to provide every 15 minutes a list of malicious websites for providers to block. The system is designed to target only scammers, its creator, Ukraine’s National Center for Operating and Management of Telecommunication Networks, insists.

“The system is not intended for filtering domains and restricting access to Internet resources that are used to spread malicious programs, propaganda, disinformation, etc., as well as for Internet resources restricted under sanctions,” the body said in a statement introducing the system.

Such an explanation, however, was apparently not sufficient for critics, who raised alarm over the use of the system by the authorities as well as a potential breach of it by Ukraine’s “enemies.” Namely, the Ukrainian Internet Association, a civic group founded by MP Alexander Fedienko, reached out to President Vladimir Zelensky over the system, voicing concerns and urging him to halt or drop the initiative altogether.

The association warned the system may end up being used to block any Internet resource the authorities deem undesirable. Apart from that, the critics pointed fingers at a feature of the system that enabled the collection, for unclear reasons, of personal data of users visiting malicious websites.

All in all, the whole system looks like a “Trojan horse,” and potential implications for Ukraine’s web, should it get breached by the country’s “enemies,” can be effectively fatal, the association warned.

Amid the ongoing conflict with Russia, Kiev has increasingly tightened its grip on the media and political field, outlawing multiple parties and shutting down numerous news outlets. In December, Ukraine adopted its controversial, long-debated, restrictive media law, with the legislation slammed as carrying “systemic problems for democracy” by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).