Af­ter Stuxnet virus, Iran has been in the grip of net­work-para­noia

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News -

IRAN’S lead­er­ship has re­peat­edly said over the past cou­ple of years that the de­struc­tive Stuxnet com­puter worm was eas­ily van­quished and caused lit­tle dam­age to the cen­trifuges car­ry­ing out uranium en­rich­ment.

What­ever the truth of this state­ment, it is clear that the dam­age of Stuxnet is en­dur­ing in the deep, lin­ger­ing sus­pi­cion of Ira­nian of­fi­cials, sci­en­tists and re­searchers to­wards vi­tal com­puter net­works.

Ev­ery few months since Stuxnet struck, news has emerged from Iran of yet an­other cy­ber-at­tack on one of the coun­try’s vi­tal in­fra­struc­tures, valiantly de­flected by Per­sian soft­ware ex­perts. From what we do know about Stuxnet, it was the prod­uct of a large team of pro­gram­mers who spent many months con­struct­ing it, an ef­fort that could have been un­der­taken only by a coun­try at the fore­front of com­puter tech­nol­ogy. In other words, if the same team was to em­bark on an­other as­sault, they would sur­pass them­selves.

It is hard to be­lieve that any of the re­cent re­ported at­tacks, in­clud­ing “Wiper”, the mys­te­ri­ous virus that last week dis­rupted the com­put­ers of Iran’s oil ex­port fa­cil­i­ties, came from the same source. But for a long time to come, the au­thors of the Stuxnet code have no need to cre­ate a re­peat per­for­mance. The shock­waves are still re­ver­ber­at­ing and ev­ery bog-stan­dard virus writ­ten by teenage hack­ers over a wet week­end will gen­er­ate enough hys­te­ria in Tehran to prompt the pre­cau­tion­ary shut­down of thou­sands of com­put­ers.

But the Ira­nian regime’s fear of com­put­ers and the in­ter­net goes much wider than viruses and worms in­fest­ing the labs of their weapons pro­grammes.

The mem­ory of the failed Green Rev­o­lu­tion, in which the in­ter­net was ex­ten­sively used to rally pro­test­ers and dis­trib­ute in­for­ma­tion, is still fresh in their mem­ory. Af­ter all, it was the in­spi­ra­tion for the sub­se­quent up­ris­ings through­out the Arab world and the Supreme Lead­er­ship is con­vinced, with some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, that the Amer­i­cans are us­ing so­cial net­works and other in­ter­net tools to un­der­mine their au­thor­ity among the younger Ira­nian gen­er­a­tion.

In re­cent weeks, the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards have staged pro­ces­sions along­side gi­ant, de­monic lo­gos of Face­book and Twit­ter con­verted to look like web-agents of the Great Satan, the United States. But since they re­alise that pro­pa­ganda and fat­was will not work on their own (it is il­le­gal to own a pri­vate TV satel­lite dish, but ev­ery­one does any­way), they are now ex­plor­ing ways to cre­ate a “Ha­lal-net”.

There are two pos­si­ble ways to do so. One is to cut off Iran en­tirely from the World Wide Web, set­ting up in its stead an in­tranet for Ira­ni­ans only. The other is to place pow­er­ful web-fil­ters on the gate­way servers, which will block ac­cess to all sub­ver­sive web­sites.

Ei­ther op­tion poses sig­nif­i­cant tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenges. Even if they over­come these, there are still the Ira­nian dis­si­dents to reckon with. So far they have proved very ca­pa­ble of lo­cat­ing and ex­ploit­ing ev­ery crack in the walls of the Is­lamic Repub­lic and will be no less suc­cess­ful in break­ing the web bar­ri­ers.


Web war: Ah­madine­jad

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