Low Cost Firewall Offers Internet Security In Developing Countries


As Internet users in developing countries rise from 408 million to more than 1,900 million in 2014 in developing countries, Raspberry Pi, a computer worth 35USD is claimed to improve the increasing challenge of internet security.

“Internet cafés are the predominant access point for people in the developing world, but the internet security hygiene of these cafés is very poor. Most of the computers are infected with viruses, botnets and malware,” explained Zubair Nabi, a researcher at IBM Research in Dublin, Ireland. Nevertheless, the Raspberry Pi, could be used to create a firewall to improve ‘security hygiene’ in developing countries, claim experts.

In third world countries reports say that despite the growth in the number of internet users, internet connectivity and security is limited. Internet use and access has been on the increase worldwide with Africa ranked as the fastest growing based on the Internet World Statistics. In Kenya, according to CCK, combining mobile and data Internet subscribers, wireless subscribers, satellite subscriptions, fixed Internet connections, fiber optic subscriptions and fixed cable modem users, the total number of Internet users is at 17.3 million out of a population of 40 million, an increase from 200,000 users in the year 2000.

However, no African country is among the top 50 Internet users of the World. In Kenya, about 10 per cent of secondary schools with computers are able to share teaching resources via a LAN setting, says a report on ICT and Education in Kenya by Glen Farrel.  More so, according to a World Bank Institute survey, ICT infrastructure in Africa, is summed up as too limited and costly with the average African university having a bandwidth capacity equivalent to a broadband residential connection available in Europe. That has forced users to rely on Internet cafes as access points of which, internet security hygiene has been found to be poor.

In terms of security problems associated with computers in developing countries, reports say that many security problems associated with computers in developing countries risk affecting computers in Western countries, thus, security needs to be improved on a global scale, noted Robert Mullins, a senior lecturer in the computer laboratory at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Moreover, most of the computers are running old operating systems for which the providers no longer offer support and which have known security flaws, he said.

The fact that low-cost computers such as the Raspberry Pi could support a security firewall that would monitor internet traffic and filter out malicious items for a network of other PCs was researched on. It was discovered that internet security and infrastructure in the developing world is not necessarily a technical challenge, but rather about ensuring the technology that is both cheap and easy to use.

Firewalls are known to be based on functions that allow a computer to send or to receive traffic from particular programs, system services, computers or users. They have varying numbers of rules, researchers say. In an experiment, the number of ‘rules’ were increased from zero to 20,000 to see how it affected computer performance. With 800 rules, the number found in an average firewall, the Raspberry Pi allows a sufficient capacity to allow 160 people to have simultaneous Skype video conversations, measured as a throughput of 20 megabits per second, which shows that the system works as a firewall and could be deployed in the real world as of today.

Using Raspberry Pis also has the advantage of affordability, low energy consumption and the ability to be plugged into TVs in addition to having fewer parts than desktop computers. Thus there is less chance of failure due to factors such as extreme weather and intermittent power common in developing world, say experts.

“They don’t even need to know how it works. All they need to do is plug it in and then they have a firewall running,” said Nabi. Deploying the security system via an SD card also allows updates to be sent to users through the post. Alternatively, one computer could be used to download and cache new firewall rules from the internet, allowing them to be shared among local users, claim experts.

“The rules will be seamlessly downloaded from the internet by the firewall application itself without any human intervention,” Nabi said “This would be very similar to how an antivirus program automatically updates its virus signature database. The rules can either be hosted and updated by an NGO or a charity organisation, or that service might be provided by the philanthropy of a large company, something along the lines of internet.org by Facebook.”

For details on the report on using a $35USD Firewall for the developing world, click here.