Saudi lifting ban on Skype, WhatsApp calls, but will monitor them


RIYADH (Reuters) - The Saudi government is lifting a ban on calls made through online apps such as Skype and WhatsApp on Thursday as part of its economic reforms, but a spokesman said it will monitor and censor such calls.

All online voice and video call services - such as Microsoft’s Skype, Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger, and Rakuten’s Viber - that satisfy the kingdom’s regulatory requirements, were set to become accessible.

Lifting the ban is part of the Saudi government’s broader reforms of the economy to help boost businesses and diversify the economy in response to low oil prices.

Adel Abu Hameed, a spokesman for telecoms regulator CITC, said on Arabiya TV on Wednesday that new regulations aimed to protect users’ personal information and block content that violated the kingdom’s laws.

Asked if the apps could be monitored by the authorities or companies, he said: “Under no circumstances can the user use an application for video or voice calling without monitoring and censorship by the Communications and Information Technology Commission, whether the application is global or local.”

It was unclear how the authorities can monitor apps such as WhatsApp, which says its messages are supported by end-to-end encryption, meaning the company cannot read customers’ messages even if approached by law enforcement agencies.

Internet communications have become widespread but Saudi Arabia began blocking them from 2013, wary that such services could be used by activists.

The “Arab Spring” mass protests in 2011 were often organized over the Internet, though Gulf Arab states, except the island kingdom of Bahrain, mostly escaped the uprisings.

The decision to lift the blocks could negatively impact Saudi Arabia’s three main telecoms operators - Saudi Telecom Co (STC), Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi - which earn the bulk of their revenue from international phone calls made by the millions of expatriates living in the kingdom.

Zain Saudi’s CEO, Peter Kaliaropoulos, told Reuters some lost income could be recouped through expansion of its own data services.

“The Saudi market has a strong appetite for faster data throughput and higher data use packages,” he said in an email. “The opportunity to monetize the extra data usage will partially offset voice revenue losses”.


Unlike the US, at least SA is admitting to spying on their citizens.


We’ve known about the spying that takes place here for years. The same tools they use are out there now. Plus there is open source stuff you can use to do exactly what they do using the same data sources that are publicly available.


How hard is this to do? I would think it takes a degree of technical sophistication to even know where to begin. Without a doubt this is also probably highly illegal.


The same country that attacked us on 9/11 and who who just gave a massive arms deal too.


Well sure we have, but they’ve come to us via leaks and unofficial disclosures. Officially it’s met with denials.


Highly illegal in SA?


Indubitably, all that notwithstanding, they remain our second most important ally in the region, lol.


It’s not hard. I can show any reasonably intelligent person with a computer in 30 minutes.

The first step is to download Kali Linux.

If you have an older laptop laying around you can use that. Or you can partition your hard drive and dual boot. Kali comes bundled with very powerful tools. As long as you don’t do anything illegal or download any of the NSA tools that are out there you have nothing to worry about. When you first start, always practice on yourself and your data.


We should collaborate on making a thread on Kali. There is no reason why everyone here couldn’t figure it out and benefit from it.

Editing this post for @Scott below.

I’m working on a post now about it and why. I did break thread discipline and should have sent @TentDweller a private note. :+1:

Big takeaways…ability to make online presence totally anonymous and secure your data for free.


A little older and with a rather old key board… I guess I am missing something here… They say the stupidest question is the one not asked, so for my benefit and anyone else who might be interested:

What is so important about this usb bootable linux distribution and what can it do for me… It advertises as ‘penetration testing’ and ‘offensive security’… Could you guys help me understand… baby steps please…


P.S. If this is a of valid importance should it have a dedicated thread in ‘technology’…?