Tag Archives | Iran

The second “attack” – a no hold barred for Iran?

Iran says it has been targeted by a second computer virus.

Iran has been targeted by a second computer virus in a “cyber war” waged by its enemies, its commander of civil defense said on Monday. Gholamreza Jalali told the semi-official Mehr news agency that the new virus, called “Stars,” was being investigated by experts.

“Fortunately, our young experts have been able to discover this virus and the Stars virus is now in the laboratory for more investigations,” Jalali was quoted as saying. He did not specify the target of Stars or its intended impact.

“The particular characteristics of the Stars virus have been discovered,” Jalali said. “The virus is congruous and harmonious with the (computer) system and in the initial phase it does minor damage and might be mistaken for some executive files of government organisations.”

While it is interesting to figure out  what “congruous and harmonious with the system” actually means, even more interesting is what kind of mischief someone in this position can conjure up and blame it on “clear and present danger to critical national infrastructure”. Many believe that Iran was successfully targeted by the Stuxnet worm.  Given this history, how many would fault Iran if it decides to “hunt down” machines/entities that are helping spread this new virus against it? Will such a strategy be acceptable by the world at large? Would the US or China or for that matter India be able to use similar logic to implement an active defense strategy? How can the international community verify Iran’s claims?

Important question with no clear answers. What do you think?

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Egypt disappears

Given the unrest that has flooded Egypt, it was just a matter of time before something like this happened – most of Egypt’s internet connectivity to the online world has been severed. According to BGPMon,

Looking at BGP data we can confirm that according to our analysis 88% of the ‘Egyptian Internet’ has fallen of the Internet.

(…)

Yesterday there were 2903 Egyptian networks, originated from 52  ISP’s. Transit was provided via 45 unique isp’s. Today at 2am UTC, the numbers look quite different, there were only 327 Egyptian networks left on the Internet. These were originated 26 by ISP’s.

This behavior is something that we have been seeing more and more frequently. The latest was the crackdown on the use of Internet during the Tunisian and Iranian unrest. As the penetration and ubiquitous nature of the Internet deepens, we will see it playing a critical role of being the major dissemination and organization medium. Countries in which Internet filtering is currently implemented at a nation-wide level will find it a very “attractive” option to severe the connectivity as a measure of denying the organisers of the “unrest” their medium of choice. This has happened (passively) for years in China, recently in Iran, Tunisian and Egypt and could happen in a majority of Middle Eastern nations where such infrastructure exists.

The OpenNet Initiative map on Internet filtering is very interesting in this aspect. A study done by the same organisation in 2008-2009 found no presence of systemic Internet filtering in place in India, unlike in China, Burma and Vietnam (in Asia). A healthy and unfiltered Internet is turning out to be a key driver for a robust democratic set up. Indian lawmakers should be very cautious when dealing with any proposed plans to place filtering systems on Indian part of the cyberspace.

On a side-note, it is interesting to observe that according to the research conducted by the same OpenNet Initiative, countries like Tunisia uses software developed by American companies for the filtering mechanism. While the export of cryptography is controlled in the US, there does not seem to be any plans to have similar regulation regarding export of software that endangers freedom of expression.

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