Desperate Iranian Ideas For Social Media Control

Mohammad-Ali Movahedi Kermani: not liking the Internet

In the latest desperate attempt to subvert the freedom of Iranian expression, the regime wants to enforce permits for foreign social network applications, such as Telegram and Instagram, with membership of 5000 or more users. The desire for such control also extends to other domestic platforms including Salam Up, Soroush, BisPhone, Cloob and Syna, along with advertising, news and entertainment channels on social media networks.

The cleric Mohammad-Ali Movahedi Kermani thinks that the Internet is a threat to Islam, because the Internet is full of rampant “tele-sex” and in his eyes is ultimately “immoral”. So concerned is Movahedi Kermani, that he puts the importance of subverting such “evil” as being above electoral issues or other pressing concerns, such as use of the Hijab.

 
Mahmoud Vaezi: deluded

Telecommunications Minister Mahmoud Vaezi thinks that channels with 5000 or more members should require permits so that the poor naive Iranian population can be assured such channels will not be fooling them with false information. Vaezi has been involved in Iran’s “filternet”, after Ahmadinejad‘s attempts in 2007 to “control” the Internet, and now the replacement “national-Internet” or Shoma, is vainly trying to do the same thing. Badly.


The Deputy Culture Minister for Communications Technology and Digital Media, Ali-Akbar Shirkavand, also wants a website that will soon be launched for administrators of such “channels” to register and continue their activities after authentication. The fear is, such controls by the regime could affect the opinions of journalists, artists and celebrities.

 
Cyber Police (FATA): Losing the plot
 

FATA chief, Brigadier General Kamal Hadianfar said that Telegram is the main platform for cybercrimes among mobile social networks. “The platform for 66% of the crimes is Telegram, while Instagram accounts for 20% and less than 2% is observed on WhatsApp,”  he said, without clarifying what “cybercrimes” were being committed via such applications… perhaps they include (according to Shirkavand anyway) copyright infringement and the sale of “immoral” goods on such channels. 

 
Kamal Hadianfar: battling the “evils” of social networks
A reality check: discord and feasibility
 
The regime’s desire to crack-down on Internet freedoms is at odds with an overtly more liberal stance on such technology by Hassan Rouhani; Rouhani calls for more freedom of expression, but everyone else wants to suppress it #awkward. For example, Attorney General Hojjatoleslam Mohammad-Jafar Montazeri wants to shut down what he calls “anti-religion” networks and said of them: “Down with the freedom that is destroying everything…this is absolute enslavement”.
 
There is also the minor issue (conveniently overlooked by the regime) of Iran’s inability to see the encrypted communications of platforms such as Telegram, and vain requests to get access to servers that must be placed in Iran are naive, at best. Also, what are the sentences to be expected by such “cybercriminals” who would dare to use such platforms? The whole thing is a joke and everyone knows it (even the regime).
  

Operation Saffron Rose

Ajax Security Teamwhich has been targeting both US defense companies as well as those in Iran is using popular anti-censorship tools to bypass internet censorship controls in the country.
This group which has its roots in popular Iranian hacker forums such as Ashiyaneand Shabgard, has engaged in website defacements since 2010. However by 2014 this group is transitioned to malware-based espionage with use of methodology consistent with other advanced persistent threats in this region.
It is unclear if the Ajax Security Team operates in isolation or is part of a larger coordinated effort. We observed this group uses varied social engineering tactics to lure targets to infect themselves with malware. They use malware tools that do not appear to be publicly available. Although we did not see the use of to infect victims, members of the Ajax Security Team previously used exploit code in web site defacement operations.
The objectives of this group are consistent with Iran’s efforts to control political dissent and expand offensive cyber capabilities but we believe that members of the group may also be involved in traditional cybercrime. This indicates that there is a considerable gray area between the cyber espionage capabilities of Iran hacker groups and any direct Iranian government or military involvement.
Although the Ajax Security Team’s capabilities remain unclear, we believe that their current operations are somewhat successful. We assess that if these actors continued the current pace of their operations they will improve their capabilities in the mid-term.