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Over the last decade, Iranians have flooded the Internet with powerful blogs, opposition websites, underground media outlets, news articles, videos, music videos, rap and poetry expressing their deep and widespread disenchantment with their government.
In tackling this threatening foreign ideology, Khamenei defined the government’s line of defense as a “mixture of cultural means and advanced communication equipment to spread lies and rumors and cause doubt and divisions among the people.”
“Lies and rumors” and “doubts and divisions” have been pervasive tactics used by this government in splintering the opposition. Diversions in the form of political sideshows within the regime or meddling in foreign affairs (such as the current Iranian influences in Bahrain and Syria) are used to derail and distract the Iranian people from organizing and uprising.
Yet, there is a fascinating resilience about the Iranian people that keeps them fighting back. Maybe it’s life under an authoritarian theocracy that suppresses the most basic rights that compels them to remain politically engaged and emotionally resolute to beat the system.
Only days after the Iranian regime announced plans for a limited network, an anonymous group managed to penetrate the government’s mail server copying more than 10,000 internal emails. The group, also called Anonymous, successfully hacked the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ server, retrieving mostly passport and visa applications. Though the content was not ultra sensitive, the group, which began its cyber hacking attacks against the government in the aftermath of the 2009 disputed Iranian election, was hoping government reaction to the incident would be to the contrary.
The documents are now available on multiple websites, meant to showcase the group’s victory while revealing weaknesses within in the government’s highly touted cyber army, the newest added division to the Iranian army which is given an estimated $76 million (U.S. dollars) of the total $11.5 billion allocated to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran’s brightest and most tech-savvy graduates are proactively recruited to join the Cyber Army, a front on which the government now must fight with its best trained soldiers.
In a 2008 assessment by Defense Tech, the regime’s competence in cyber warfare scored a 4.0 out of a scale of 5.0. The evaluation found that the Iranian government had significantly invested in and advanced its cyber-warfare weapons and agenda.
The hacking of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website came at an ominous moment, less than a week before the two-year anniversary of the 2009 election uprisings. While it is still uncertain what, if any, plans have been drawn up by the opposition to mark the anniversary of the movement, it is clear that the designation and characterization of “warfare” has drastically evolved for both the Iranian people and their aggressors.
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