I tried sniffing TLS web traffic on my own network and I always run against the following complications:
- I need to install an additional root cert on my devices
- I need to root my phone to do certificate pinning bypass
For a government this is even harder, isn't it?
- I have hard time believing that everyone's phone gets a government root cert injected. Do they do this as part of mobile phone distribution? What if someone buys a phone in another country?
- I have hard time believing that the government has root on all devices (by the way if they have this, why bother with MiTM? They own the device)
And yet, I keep hearing how the governments are able to spy on their citizens and proactively "crack down" on people "misbehaving" online. Some can even censor what people say before it spreads. Everyone is scared to say anything online as the government somehow "knows all". But as of 2022 on modern platforms that do security well, can governments really sniff traffic at such a massive scale? Or is this why recently we hear of some governments pulling the plug on the internet? Maybe exactly because they can't sniff effectively anymore?
To make this scenario more specific. If big chunk of population in a authoritarian country started using decentralized, end-to-end encrypted communication software with well implemented certificate pinning on devices shipped from a "free" country, are governments mass sniffing attempts foiled?
Even more specific. Is an iPhone someone buys in china "rooted"? Will iPhone purchased in USA work in China? Since they are both iPhones, how do we know that USA iPhones are not rooted by China during their manufacture?
Note, I'm not asking about targeted sniffing efforts targeting specific individuals or small groups. I'm asking about mass sniffing of millions of citizens 24x7. This question is about deep packet inspection, not metadata such as SNI etc. Also I'm not asking how they did it in the past (it was easier in the past). I'm asking about the current state. Bonus if someone can make a prediction about the future. (ex: will most sniffing disappear?)