Tag: Iran

Iranian politicians get their dull monitored internet

Iranian MPs sleeping in Majlis ParliamentIran has announced it has completed the first phase of its plan to operate a “national internet” which will be free of all the porn and anti-Islamic thought that the real internet has. Basically it is getting what former UK Prime Minister David Cameron wanted and it is a bit of a snooze.

An inauguration ceremony was held on Sunday by the country’s communications and information technology minister, Mahmoud Vaezi.

The state news agency Irna said the initiative would offer “high quality, high speed” connections at “low costs” although it is not clear how it can be any cheaper than the real thing.

Cynics think that the aim of the new net is to tighten the authorities’ control by closely monitoring people’s use and censoring everything.

Iran already blocks access to overseas-based social media services – including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – many users still access them via proxy sites and virtual private networks (VPNs).

The government says it wants an isolated domestic intranet that can be used to promote Islamic content and raise digital awareness among the public.  It will eventually replace the real internet.

“All domestic activities, services, applications [and] various types of contents… are included in the national internet,” he declared at the launch.

The minister added that the initiative would make it easier to combat cyber-threats. At the ceremony, another official said the Information Technology ministry had recently had to combat several distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks – attempts to overwhelm its computer servers by flooding them with traffic.

US government temporarily lifts ZTE export block

zte-corporationThe US  government has temporarily lifted export curbs it imposed on ZTE for alleged Iran sanctions violations.

ZTE has been “in active, constructive discussions” with the Commerce Department for the past week attempting to resolve the matter.

Apparently the outfit made binding commitments to the US government and Commerce expects this week to be able to provide temporary relief from some licensing requirements.

“The relief would be temporary in nature and would be maintained only if ZTE is abiding by its commitments to the U.S. Government,” the official added.

The details of the commitments are expected to be published this week in the US Federal Register.

ZTE promised to ensure all of its operational activities adhere to international standards of its host countries and it will continue to communicate with relevant parties to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

ZTE is the No. 4 smartphone vendor in the United States, with a seven percent market share, behind Apple, Samsung and LG. It sells handset devices to three of the four largest U.S. mobile carriers.

The export restrictions have drawn protests from the Chinese government and really stuffed up ZTE’s business.

US planned a major cyber attack on Iran

US Army - Wikimedia CommonsThe United States was planning an extensive cyber-attack on Iran if diplomacy over its nuclear programme failed.

According to the New York Times the attack was code-named Nitro Zeus and would have crippled Iran’s air defences, communications systems and key parts of its electrical power grid.

It was put on hold after a nuclear deal was reached last year.

The plan was set up by the Pentagon to give President Barack Obama that he had alternatives to war if Iran moved against the United States or its regional allies. It involved thousands of US military and intelligence personnel and would have required tens of millions of dollars and putting electronic devices in Iran’s computer networks.

US intelligence agencies at the same time developed a separate plan for a covert cyberattack to disable Iran’s Fordo nuclear enrichment site inside a mountain near the city of Qom.

Fiorina is getting bitten by her HP past

Carly Former HP queen Carly Fiorina’s presidential campaign has been hit by a story which is connected to her doings while making expensive printer ink.

Fiorina has been sounding off in favour of the Iranian peace deal which her fellow GOP members are convinced is going to be broken by those evil Muslims who should never be trusted. Until recently the Winsome Carly had said that if she was made president she would have undone the deal if she was elected.

While Fiorina’s change of heart would normally be greeted as sane by many right thinking people, her fellow GOP rivals have dug up an item from her past which she would rather have forgotten.
When Fiorina was CEO of HP the outfit was involved in a scandal to flog printers in Iran through a subsidiary company in Dubai despite the trade embargo. The sales were halted shortly after the business dealings were published by the Globe.

Fiorina claimed no knowledge that the approximately $100 million of sales through the subsidiary were coming from Iran. The San Jose Mercury News found evidence that Fiorina at least knew a little bit about it.

It dug up a statement from the period where she commented that Middle East sales were defying global trends, and, issued a press release saying sales topped $100 million and that a big chunk of it came from Iran.

In 2010 she partially admitted HP’s business in Iran and defended it in an interview with Lady Globes magazine, on the basis that technology could open up Iran to the world. She said that the Iran business was “distributing printer ink,” which she said that was permitted in export law.

However HP had an office in the Dubai free-trade zones notorious for funnelling American goods to Iran, Portfolio reported. The gravy train was derailed in January 2009, HP severed ties with Redington Gulf when the distributor publicly bragged about it.

Anyway it appears that this particular skeleton in her closet will not go away and the news is being circulated on the world wide wibble again.

China looking to outsource to the US

US local governments are providing sweeteners to Chinese companies in the hope they will set up shop.

Yahoo news said the free market was not providing places like Alabama with jobs and the region has a high unemployment rate.

But the region is finding investors from the Communist Henan Province in China.

Henan’s Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group opened a plant in Alabama last month and the trend is being noticed across the US.

Chinese companies invested a record $14 billion in the United States last year, according to the Rhodium Group research firm. Collectively, they employ more than 70,000 Americans.

Chinese workers are getting more expensive and US energy prices are falling. Mayors and economic development officials are lining up to welcome Chinese investors when a decade or two ago they would have called them Commie infiltrators.

It is in the more conservative Southern states, where obsession with the Bible, women’s wombs and blocking health care has meant a higher number of people on welfare has been at the forefront of attracting the Chinese.

To be fair the US has some advantages of cheaper Chinese plants. Besides access to cheap Mexican labour, firms who set up there can save a fortune on transport costs. 

Iranian hackers used Facebook socks

Iranian spooks were involved in a three year hacker campaign using Facebook socks and a fake news website to spy on military and political leaders in the United States, Israel and other countries.

ISight Partners, which uncovered the operation, said the hackers’ targets include a four-star U.S. Navy admiral, US lawmakers and ambassadors, members of the US Israeli lobby, and personnel from Britain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is not clear what data had been stolen by the hackers, who were looking for passwords to government and corporate networks.

iSight Executive Vice President Tiffany Jones told Reuters that the fact the programme went for so long indicated that they had some success.

The hackers created six “personas” who appeared to work for a fake news site, NewsOnAir.org, which used content from the Associated Press, BBC, Reuters and other media outlets. They then built eight personas who purported to work for defence contractors and other organizations.

The next part of the plan was to set up false accounts on Facebook and other online social networks for these 14 personas, populated their profiles with fictitious personal content, and then tried to befriend the victims.

iSight said it was the most elaborate cyber espionage campaign using “social engineering” that has been uncovered to date from any country.

The hackers would approach high-value targets by first establishing ties with the victims’ mates, classmates, colleagues, relatives and other connections over social networks.

They then sent content that was not malicious, such as links to news articles on NewsOnAir.org, in a bid to establish trust. Later they would send links that infected PCs with malicious software, or direct targets to web portals that ask for network log-in credentials.

The hackers used the 14 personas to make connections with more than 2,000 people, the firm said, adding that it believed the group ultimately targeted several hundred individuals.

Facebook has removed all of the offending profiles found to be associated with the fake NewsOnAir organisation. 

Iranians want Mark Zuckerberg in court

A conservative Iranian court has started a case against instant messaging services WhatsApp and Instagram and summoned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over complaints of privacy violation.

The Iranian court in the southern province of Fars opened the cases against the social networks after citizens complained of breaches of privacy.

You can tell that the Iranian judges are going to be fair and reasonable. They even called Zuckerberg a Zionist because he grew up in New York in a Jewish family. Zuckerberg is actually an atheist.

Nevertheless the Iranians think that either he or his official attorney must appear in court to defend himself and pay for possible losses.

Zuckerberg, whose company owns WhatsApp and Instagram, is likely to tell the court to go forth and multiply. Even if he wanted to show up, Iran is still under international sanctions over its disputed nuclear activities and it is difficult for US citizens to secure travel visas. If he did show up there was a possibility that he might end up stoned, and not in a nice way.

It is fairly likely that the privacy case is just a pretext to get Facebook and WhatsApp banned in Iran. The more extreme conservatives see the World Wide Web as a threat because it enables its population to be informed, rather than told. Hell, they might even learn that there are different takes on the Muslim faith in which the prophet, peace be upon him, talks about treating women as equals and not the property of men. 

Iranian President wants to embrace the internet

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has surprised western observers that his country should embrace the Internet rather than censoring it.

Rouhani, a comparative moderate elected last year, said trying to win the battle for public influence by restricting the internet was like bringing a wooden sword to a gunfight.

The statement moves Rouhani away from rival conservative clerics, some close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They think that the best way to preserve the power of the Shi’ite Muslim clergy is to censor everything.

The social media policy of predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was to round up bloggers and tighten online controls in an eight-year term. He was especially upset after protesters used social media to organise mass street demonstrations in 2009 and he had to kill a few of them.

Rouhani told the official IRNA news agency that Iran should see the Internet as an opportunity. We must recognize our citizens’ right to connect to the World Wide Web.

“Why are we so shaky? Why have we cowered in a corner, grabbing onto a shield and a wooden sword, lest we take a bullet in this culture war?” he said in his weekend speech. He said that even if there was an onslaught, which there is, the way to face it is via modern means, not passive and cowardly methods.

Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, secretary of a state committee tasked with monitoring and filtering sites, last year called Facebook a US espionage project.

Rouhani compared the effort to restrict access to the internet to an earlier, failed attempt to combat the spread of satellite television.

He noted that the first obsession was video – how to keep it out of our youth’s access and protect our faith and identity. Then satellite dishes shot up on roofs. Today, the internet and smart phones have become the foremost woe.

However, he said that Iran could not develop without embracing the digital world and criticised the idea that students should just take notes from books rather than go online.

Internet censorship has eased somewhat under Rouhani’s new government, Iranians say, but he lacks the power to open it up completely.

Key strategic matters connected to the net fall under the authority of the Supreme Council of Virtual Space set up two years ago by the clergy. 

US arrests Chinese hack suspects

In a desperate attempt to make people stop thinking that is spying on everyone, the US government arrested some Chinese officials and accused them of hacking.

Last week the NSA was caught opening the boxes of Cisco routers to install spyware, so the arrests have served to distract the American press a little and allow it to pretend to be a victim again.

The United States charged five Chinese military officers and accused them of hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets, ratcheting up tensions between the two world powers over cyber espionage.

China immediately denied the charges, saying in a strongly worded Foreign Ministry statement the US grand jury indictment was “made up” and would damage trust between the two nations.

US Attorney General Eric Holder said at a news conference that when a foreign nation uses military or intelligence resources and tools against an American executive or corporation to obtain trade secrets or sensitive business information for the benefit of its state-owned companies, we must say, ‘enough is enough’.

Targeted companies including Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies, United States Steel, Toshiba unit Westinghouse Electric Co, the U.S. subsidiaries of SolarWorld, and a steel workers’ union.

The victims had all filed unfair trade claims against their Chinese rivals, helping Washington draw a link between the alleged hacking activity and its impact on international business.

The US claims that Chinese state-owned companies “hired” Unit 61398 of the People’s Liberation Army “to provide information technology services” including assembling a database of corporate intelligence.

Security expert Tom Cross, of Lancope, said that the US Department of Justice is a step forward on the long road toward establishing a set of international norms regarding cyber espionage.

“A clear international legal framework exists for acts of warfare between nation states, even if those acts occur in cyberspace, but that framework only applies to attacks that damage physical infrastructure or that have the potential to harm people. There are fewer rules that apply to spying activity,” he said.

He added that part of addressing the problem of international spying on the Internet involves setting standards for what is and is not an acceptable target.

“This will prompt a dialog about International norms in this area, and having that dialog is a vital part of coming to grips with the impact that Internet security issues are having on our societies,” Cross said. 

Iranian hackers target US defence industry

Security outfit FireEye has noticed an up-tick in attacks from an Iran-based hacking group.

The Ajax Security Team, which sounds like a group that would clean your bath rather than hackers, is better known for defacing websites.

But FireEye said the group has shown increased ambition over the past few months, targeting US defence contractors and Iranian dissidents.

FireEye said in its report, called “Operation Saffron Rose that a network of computers AST uses to steal data has shown continued activity distributing malware aimed at higher-value targets,

The security company recovered information on 77 people targeted by the group by analyzing a command-and-control server used to store stolen data. Most of the victims had their computers set to the Persian language and to Iran’s time zone. FireEye said it also uncovered evidence the group targeted US defense contractors.

The report said that there is no clear link between the group and Iran’s government, although the country has been trying to expand its offensive cybercapabilities.

“While the objectives of this group are consistent with Iran’s efforts at controlling political dissent and expanding offensive cyber capabilities, the relationship between this group and the Iranian government remains inconclusive,” the report said.

The Ajax Security Team’s move from “patriotic” hacking—defacing websites in defence of Iran’s government—to more cyber-espionage is a pattern which the company noticed with Chinese groups.

“Members of the Chinese hacking community that participated in such attacks soon found that transitioning to cyberespionage was more rewarding,” FireEye said.

In one attack, the group created a fake website for the IEEE Aerospace Conference, an annual weeklong conference attended by high-ranking government and military members.

It then targeted conference-goers with emails leading to the fake website. The website then tried to persuade visitors to install proxy software in order to access the site, which was actually malware, FireEye said.