Iran’s “National Internet” Project: Doomed to Fail.

The National Internet aka Intranet

Iran has rolled out the start of the “National Internet” Project for all Iranian citizens to “enjoy”. According to Tasnim news agency, the national internet operates independently of all others networks (in other words, the Internet we all know and love)and is designed to operate domestically.

The national internet was started in 2005(delayed by increased costs and delays)and the final two phases are due to be completed by 2017. The second phase will add cutting-edge content such as videos. Expect that in February 2017. The third and final phase will include among other things, services for Iranian business with international services. Err…

Filternet: it’s all over

The previous attempt by the Iranian regime known as the “filternet” or the “smart web” (designed to limit access to the evil parts of the existing internet), has failed miserably because it is easy for Iranians to use proxy servers or VPN connections to get around the “filters” put in place by the regime.  

Mahmoud Vaezi: filternet was all his fault

Iran‘s Communications and Information Technology minister Mahmoud Vaezi was behind the smart web filtering project, but he now says that the “filternet” is inefficient. So, he’s really saying it has not worked. And it’s all his fault. You can see here that Vaezi thought “filternet” was a great success, while hypocritically using foreign companies to help set it up. Confused? No doubt Vaezi will have to wipe the egg off his face when not only the “filternet” but also the national internet, fails to stop Iranians from accessing sites on the WWW.

Iran seems fine with the hypocrisy that use of a Californian company’s SmartFilter was used in the development of “filternet”…

Why bother?

To replace “filternet”, the national internet is deliberately meant to create an isolated domestic intranet for Islamic content and also attempt to improve cyber security (by not exposing Iranians to the evil Western Internet).

Well, Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani thinks it will magically strengthen the independence of the country. At a meeting of the Supreme Council of Cyberspace, according to the Iranian Republic News Agency (IRNA), Rouhani said that Iranian independence is increased by “not relying on external information networks for internal communications in today’s world”.

Hassan Rouhani: backing the National Internet

Rouhani vainly tries to convince Iranians (no one is falling for it), that they will play a more active role in furthering Iran’s role in the world if Iranians get access to a, “national, trustworthy, stable, high-quality and secure network” (cyber security in Iran is a bit of a hot topic in a post-Stuxnet world).

What this really means is that Iranians are meant to only be able to access content that is delivered from within Iran, with all servers being based in Iran.

Don’t panic

Like the failure of the existing “filternet”, the “National Internet” will NOT be able to control Iranian access to the wider, “unclean” Internet. Why not? Well, if filters can be easily bypassed, so can this. If Iran cannot control use of Telegram for example (Telegram has no servers in Iran), does she really think control can be made otherwise? 

Less computer-literate people may not normally be able to access sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, etc. but such sites can still be accessible using means such as described above.


Iranian Hackers Attack State Dept. via Social Media Accounts

Iran launched sophisticated computer espionages leading to a series of cyberattacks against US State Department officials over the past month.

It is possible that cyberespionage is becoming the tool of seeking the type of influence that Iranian hardliners hoped that that country’s nuclear program will eventually provide.

According to diplomatic and law enforcement officials who are familiar with the investigation Iranian hackers over the past month identified individual State Department officials who focus on Iran and the Middle East and broke into their email and social media accounts. The State Department became aware of the compromises when Facebook told the victims that the state-sponsored hackers compromised their accounts.

Iran’s cyberskills are not yet equal to those of Russia or China but the attack against the State Department by using the social media accounts of young government employees to gain access to their friends across the administration is a focus that was not seen before.

Iranians have been less destructive than they could be, but they are getting far more aggressive in cyberespionage, which they know is less likely it will prompt a response from the United States.

Iranian hackers have been responsible for a series of powerful attacks against American banks that took their websites offline as well as a destructive attack on Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, that replaced data on employee machines with an image of a burning American flag. American government officials also blame Iran for a similarly destructive attack at RasGas, the Qatari natural gas giant,and for an attack on Sands Casino in Las Vegas, where a large number of computers were destroyed.

Last year Iranians began using cyberattacks for espionage rather than for destruction and disruption. From May 2014 Iranian hackers were targeting Iranian dissidents and later policy makers,senior military personnel and defense contractors in the United States, England and Israel.

The attacks were basic “spear phishing” attempts, in which attackers tried to lure their victims to click on a malicious link, in this case by impersonating members of the news media.
Iranian hackers were successful in more than a quarter of their attempts. The number of such attacks reached its climax in May just ahead of the nuclear talks in Vienna in July and reached more than 1,500 attempts.

In the months before the talks, Iran’s hackers began probing critical infrastructure networks in what appeared reconnaissance for cyberattacks with the objective of causing physical damage but in June and July as American and Iranian negotiators gathered in Vienna to agree a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, attacks against targets in the United States stopped. Instead of this, Iran started targeting victims in Israel as well as members of Daesh in July as the militant group began expanding territory across Iraq.

Then in August just two weeks after the nuclear accord was reached, the trickle of cyberattacks against the group’s usual targets resumed against included 1600 individuals from scholars, scientists, chief executives and ministry officials to education institutes, journalists and human rights activists. If facebook last month had not decided to use a new alert system to notify users when facebook’s security team believed state-sponsored hackers had hijacked their accounts, and US State Department officials began to see a troubling new message pop up on their facebook accounts, it is possible that the victims didn’t learn of the compromises.


Iranian Government Spying in Social Networking Sites

No one can deny that these days millions of Iranians rely on Facebook. The high number of Facebook users in Iran, which is estimated to be anywhere between four million and five million people, makes this a social phenomena. Young Iranians are denied the most basic freedoms even in their private lives and without social liberties,what these users reflect on their Facebook pages is in effect how they would like to live.
Iranians use social networking sites among other things for political discussion, more open posting and publication of works of art and literature, the announcement of events that cannot be publicized on domestic newspapers and to find kindred spirits or like-minded people. But is it possible for Iranians appear in any arena without Islamic Republic officials cracking down on them?
In June 2014 three Ahvazi citizens were sentenced to three years in jail for creating certain Facebook pages, membership on Facebook carried a one-year sentence. Some people are arrested for crimes against morality and public decency on Facebook. In July 2014, a Revolutionary Court sentenced eight people to 127 years imprisonment in total for being active Facebook users. In another instance the Malayer Security chief announced the sentencing of 22 Facebook users, and this is a another long story.
Ali MirAhmadi, the deputy head of Iran Cyber Police has said: “The main objective of Iran’s Cyber Police is to promote cyber security through continuous observation and monitoring of cyber space. I advise all users to comply with the laws and regulations and avoid any form of offence within cyber space because the police have complete knowledge of it.”
In most cases as soon as someone is arrested for using Facebook, the Cyber Police regards him as either a spy, prostitute, enemy abettor or guilty of crimes against morals and public decency. The offences are considered to be proven in advance.
A lawyer says that judges often have no expertise in cyber technology and adds: “Judges have no expertise in computer technology and so everything goes back to the reports from the ministry of intelligence or the Cyber Police. The judge accepts these reports as expert opinions. Therefore, it is impossible to prove otherwise.”
An IT expert says the problem is that when an Iranian enters the World Wide Web, he must follow the model of use that suits his circumstances in Iran. “In our country, the internet and social networking sites are a venue for political activity. The government views this political activity as propaganda against the regime. Therefore, cyber space is under close scrutiny by the government.” The IT specialist goes on to conclude that for this reason, internet users in Iran must maintain different security criteria for themselves when they use the internet as opposed to people outside of Iran.

Iranian Regime Cracks Down On “Selfie” Culture

Self photography is becoming more popular in Iran and whilst some relish the opportunity of being seen on the Internet, others worry this contributes to the culture of narcissism.
Since the average Iranian must pay at least two monthly wages to acquire a smart phone, the phenomenon is limited mostly to middle and upper-class youths, who have taken to the fashion.
Edit software like Photoshop is cheap and popular in Iran due to an absence of copyright laws and many Iranians alter their selfies before they post them online. While it is difficult to count the exact number of selfies on Iranian social networks, but users say they make the majority of postings on Instagram. According to cafebazaar, an alternative platform that 85% Iranians use to download apps, the social app has over one million users in Iran, while an estimated 82% of these Instagram users are men, the users in this article said women post more selfies than men. 
My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page invites Iranian women to share their views on hijab and this controversy illustrates the attitudes of these women as well as the inflexibility of the Islamic regime. 
When the page attracted nearly half a million likes and hundreds of hijab-free selfies, Iran’s government media started a campaign against the page’s founder Masih Alinejad in London and called her a whore and claimed that she was drugged and gang-raped in front of her son. The fear of losing cultural control over Iran’s population especially women and youth, is also behind an effort by the country’s hardline political spheres to block Instagram, which a 27 May court order added to the government list of banned web sites.

eBay Hacked: Change Your Passwords! NOW!

Online marketplace eBay is forcing users to change their passwords after a cyber-attack compromised its systems.
The US firm said a database was hacked between late February and early March and had contained encrypted passwords and other non-financial data.
The company added that it has no evidence of unauthorised activity on its members accounts.
However it said that changing the passwords is “best practice and will help enhance security for eBay users”.
The California company has 128 million active users and recorded $212bn commerce on its various marketplaces and other services in 2013.
Facebook said it will contact users via email, its website, adverts and social media to alert them of the issue. 
Cyber-attackers accessed the information after obtaining “a small number of employee log-in credentials”, that allowed them to access its systems, which facebook first became aware of this only two weeks ago.
Facebook said: “The database… included eBay customers’ name, encrypted password, email address, physical address, phone number and date of birth.
However, the database did not contain financial information or other confidential personal information.
Extensive forensics subsequently identified the compromised eBay database, resulting in the company’s announcement today.”
Although the firm also owns the PayPal money transfer service, but it said that the PayPal data is stored separately and encrypted and there is no evidence that it was accessed.