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.

  

Powerful Iran? Iranian Twitter Bots #FAIL


The Iranians appear to be engaged in a strange soft-war propaganda campaign projecting to a Western audience using the hashtag, “Powerful_Iran” (#powerful_iran)

Multiple fake Twitter accounts have been publishing content from accounts with English names and profile photographs of Hollywood celebrities. The tweets have photographs of Iranian military equipment and cover a range of countries, media outlets, political slogans and other issues.

All of the tweeted photos have a logo of a dove with a rifle on its back showing the Iranian flag. They also include a caption using the “Powerful Iran” hashtag in English, Arabic and Persian.  Many of the tweets have images which vainly state that, “Islamic Republic of Iran is an international power” If you say so…


Here are some of the obviously fake Twitter accounts (seems that these 16 accounts are sending most of the tweets):

@daniel_mathew12 (created:12/15/2015)
@coreenwright3 (created: 12/26/2015)
@brianrauscher3 (created: 12/15/2015)
@harrisonangela5 (created: 12/15/2015)
@Williams2070 (created: 12/27/2015)
@daisybailey01 (created: 12/27/2015)
@EthelBell2016 (created: 12/26/2015)
@charlesmeyer201 (created: 12/26/2015)
@agustinarobbin1 (created: 12/27/2015)
@thomasanaya3 (created: 12/26/2015)
@Halina1321 (created: 12/13/2015)
@Peggy_Seitz (created: 12/26/2015)
@stefan_witcher (created: 12/26/2015)
@TillieMedeiros (created: 12/26/2015)
@shahab945 (created: 08/05/2015)
@pablofisher1990 (created: 12/22/2015)

The profiles are fake because:

  1. They have clearly mostly been created around the same time.
  2. They replay the same content between profiles.
  3. They don’t tweet about much else!
  4. They have a lot of followers & tweets in a short time.
  5. They use images of celebrities, obviously!


Similarities to Letter4u

Last year, the hashtag “Letter4u” was used by many bot-like accounts following the release of an open letter by Iran’s supreme leader addressed to Western youth and the “Powerful_Iran” shows similarities to that campaign: “Letter4u” was also launched by an army of bots using photos of celebrities and also used a similar range of random hashtags. The themes of the tweets coincides with the predictable goals of the Iranian state, that is to destroy Israel and shut down traffic in the Persian Gulf, suggestions that Israel and Saudi Arabia are working together, & that Iran is a major global military country.

While it’s not entirely clear who is behind the “Powerful_Iran” campaign, but it gained traction following the nuclear agreement between the West & Iran.

#FAIL

John Little, author of Blogs of War states that, “…the campaign is a miserable failure. Almost all of the tweets have gone unnoticed and have no retweets or favourites. The few interactions that I can find also appear to be faked by other bots”.   

Links

You can follow the Twitter & Telegram accounts for: @powerful_iran