Yesterday the WSJ reported of the Iranian government using deep packet inspection technology to censor and monitor Internet activity throughout the country. Deep packet inspection (DPI) is essentially a method through which network operators can delve into individual IP packets to develop an understanding of the type of content flowing through their networks. In the case of Iran, the technology was purportedly used to block certain types of content from being accessed within the country. Similar, less invasive tactics have also been employed in China.
Though reports of this nature present DPI as an emerging technology facilitating the invasion of privacy, DPI has long been used in IT departments for a variety of purposes. Jay Botelho of WildPackets, a DPI technology provider with several enterprise clients, informed us of how the technology is utilized in the enterprise space.
Botelho explained that DPI is most commonly used for network troubleshooting. For instance, if a network hold up occurs, DPI technology allows one to reduce congestion by prioritizing traffic or reallocating portions to other branches of the network. DPI is also widely used to protect corporate networks from viruses and spyware by identifying and filtering out packets with malicious content. More recently, IT departments have turned to the technology to obtain a more comprehensive view of network performance. WildPackets, along with competitors NetScout and Network Instruments, for instance, all offer suites that monitor and provide quick summary-level reports of applications running across a network.
In sum, though deep packet inspection has recently been portrayed as an emerging technology utilized by government agencies, the technology has existed in the enterprise for several years. It is only now, with rich media flowing through the Web with incredible abundance and speed that governments are utilizing the technology to control the flow of content and slow the proliferation of ideas. As social media continues to abound, it is also conceivable that IT departments may further utilize DPI to squelch out social media before it renders them obsolete.