AP: Iran seeks to boost corps of web watchers

Jan 19, 20110 comments

Jan 19, 11:49 AM EST By BRIAN MURPHY Associated Press DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s top police chief envisions a new beat for his forces: patrolling cyberspace. “There is no time to wait,” Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam said last week at the opening of a new police headquarters in the Shiite seminary city of Qom. “We will have cyber police all over Iran.” The first web watchdog squads are planned in Tehran this month – another step in Iran’s rapidly expanding focus on the digital world as cyber warfare and online sleuthing take greater prominence with the Pentagon’s new Cyber Command and the secrets spilled to WikiLeaks. For Iranian authorities, mastering the intricacies of the web is seen as critical on two fronts: an offensive weapon against political opposition and a defensive shield to thwart cyber-attacks such as the Stuxnet computer worm that Iran said was aimed at sabotaging its uranium enrichment program. It’s part of what the Islamic Republic calls its “soft war” – which includes trying to curb Western cultural influences and gaining the upper hand in cyberspace against web-literate opposition groups. But some experts question Iran’s capabilities in the constantly evolving Net. They say Iran is hampered by the lack of homegrown computer innovation and its struggle to find competent programmers and hackers willing to work for the state… Iran, however, appears to be investing significant resources to boost its cyber corps. The Revolutionary Guard – Iran’s military-industrial powerhouse – is believed linked to the secretive “Cyber Army” that emerged as a counter punch against the onslaught of opposition websites and blogs after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009. Some Iranian lawmakers are now reportedly seeking a sharp boost in funding and recruitment to bring more hackers into the Revolutionary Guards paramilitary Basij corps, which is far better known for its storm trooper role against protesters. The suspected fingerprints of the Cyber Army have already turned up in defacements against Twitter, the Chinese search engine Baidu and TechCrunch Europe, a blog covering web startups and related news. The Cyber Army also has been blamed for blocking reformist sites and even hacking into the website of Farsi1, a popular television channel based in Dubai and owned by an Afghan media tycoon and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. In October, a web security firm Seculert said its researchers believe the Cyber Army branched out to botnets, networks of infected PCs that have been hijacked from their owners – often without their knowledge – and can be used by hackers to spread malicious software. Full Article: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/ML_IRANS_CYBER_ARMY?SITE=WHIZ&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT