Sunnyvale, CA-based Blue Coat Systems, makers of Internet-blocking devices used by governments and law enforcement agencies around the world to stifle both criminal activity and dissent, are contending with a potential PR nightmare resulting from the admission that 13 of their devices have shown up in Syria. The devices were reportedly used by the Syrian government to block Internet activity as part of their ongoing crackdown on popular protest movements associated with the larger Arab Spring. The devices were originally sold to the government of Dubai, intended, Blue Coat Systems insists, for eventual use in Iraq.
The devices were detected when automatic status messages were sent to Blue Coat Systems as the Syrian Government used them to censor activity on the Syrian Internet. Though research by the Wall Street Journal confirms that other Blue Coat Systems devices are in use in Syria, possibly indicating deliberate trade sanction violations, Blue Coat Systems is reportedly cooperating fully with an American government investigation. In addition to the 13 devices that have been detected, a 14th remains unaccounted for, and since the late 90s, a reported 25 total such devices have made their way into Syria through Dubai-based facilitators. The means by which these devices were transferred from a nation currently enjoying U.S. support in their crackdown of popular dissent, to one that does not, remains unknown.
Blue Coat senior VP Steve Daheb said "We don't want our products to be used by the government of Syria or any other country embargoed by the United States," indicating, at least in theory, the company's commitment to only assist in stifling dissent in compliance with US and International law.