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Iran struggles to defend its networks from external attackers even as it is swept with internal political unrest

Just months after leaks from inside the Obama administration or senior intelligence indicated that the U.S. and Israel has plotted to install malware on computers at nuclear-processing facilities in Iran in a successful sabotage attempt, Iran is sounding off with new claims of U.S. or Israeli malice.  Iran said Wednesday in comments to reporters that on Tuesday its national internet infrastructure was targeted by large-scale data disruption, which it believes was the work of the U.S. or Israeli, its traditional arch-rivals.

I. A New Attack

Reuters reports Iran's secretary of the High Council of Cyberspace, Mehdi Akhavan Behabadi, as accusing, "Yesterday we had a heavy attack against the country's infrastructure and communications companies which has forced us to limit the Internet.  Presently we have constant cyber attacks in the country."

"Yesterday an attack with a traffic of several gigabytes hit the Internet infrastructure, which caused an unwanted slowness in the country's Internet.  All of these attacks have been organized. And they have in mind the country's nuclear, oil, and information networks."

Gibson Neuromancer
Iran has accused the U.S. of another "cyber war" effort.
[Image Source: Interplay (cover art for Neuromancer game)]

The alleged attack comes at a period of high tensions between Iran's capital, Tehran, and the West.  Both the U.S. and Israel have claimed to have intelligence indicating that Iran is seeking to develop short-range nuclear weapons, weapons which could pose a dire threat to the Israeli state.  While the U.S. has stopped short of calling for a physical attack on Iran, Israeli has taken things a step further saying it will attack suspected Iranian nuclear facilities with or without the U.S. if Iran doesn't pledge to stop development.

Iran says it will defend itself if attacked and refuses to stop what it says is a "peaceful" uranium enrichment program.

II. The Threat From Within vs. the Threats From Outside

But the nation is also facing internal turmoil amidst a wave of revolutions in the Middle East.    Iran's currency lost a third of its value against the dollar in just the last week, a staggering collapse that had citizens -- particularly those in the financial sectors -- protesting in the street.  Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has ordered riot police to crack down on the protesters.  This is the second time in only three years that riot police have clashed with citizen protesters; in 2009 citizens took to the streets claiming that the Iranian President had resorted to fraud in his successful reelection bid.

The recent protests, in part, have forced Iranian military and intelligence to step up their internet expertise.  Iran has one of the world's most extensive nation-level filters, a firewall analogous to China's.  Sites like YouTube or Facebook have been banned to try to prevent citizens from using them as channels to spread word of protests or other anti-government activities.  Iran also bans some of these sites for refusing to obey Islamic law, which among other things forbid depictions of their Prophet Mohammed.

Iran protests
In recent weeks Iranian protesters have clashed with riot police, similar to the riots of 2009 (pictured).
[Image Source: Wired]

But that filtering also leaves Iran's infrastructure vulnerable to foreign attack, as it means traffic is being routed through certain central conduits.  Indeed, while Iran's Revolutionary Guards claim the country is prepared to wage "cyber war" with Israel and the West, the recent allegations indicate that Iran's efforts to secure itself against internal dissent are crippling its ability to defend itself against external threats.

Recent attacks on Iran have also struck at the Iranian oil industry, the lifeblood of the nation's economy.  Iran is the world's fifth largest oil producer.  As the U.S. refuses to buy its oil, thus Iran primarily sells its fossil fuels to China.

Source: Reuters

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RE: Paranoid state
By Ammohunt on 10/4/2012 10:35:36 PM , Rating: 5
So tell me if your neighbor stands at the end of your yard and states that he is going to kill you, your family and burn your house to the ground all the while you watch him arm himself with the means to do exactly what he says he is going to do. You would do nothing and chalk it up to talk is cheap? Man you must have "Kick Me" embroider on every shirt you own.

RE: Paranoid state
By Jereb on 10/5/2012 1:01:01 AM , Rating: 2
Probably not as simple an analogy as that given the circumstances surrounding Israel's founding.

For that matter isn't israel the only nation to successfully "conquer" and expand it's boundaries since it's creation in that area?

RE: Paranoid state
By madtruths on 10/5/2012 1:35:05 AM , Rating: 2
While Israels founding is kinda complicated, that whole area didnt become the nation states they are now much before Israel come to be. I wouldnt be surprised if that area became one again, after all the Ottoman empire lasted 600+ years ending just "recently" in 1922. Not a huge stretch of the imagination to see that happening seeing as how they are all united against Israel in one way or another, emotionally or physically.

RE: Paranoid state
By Paj on 10/5/2012 8:51:52 AM , Rating: 2
Most of the 'nations' in the Middle East and North Africa have only existed for the last century or less. Many of the current borders were established at the end of WWI and the fall of the Ottoman empire, when Europe came in and carved it all up arbitrarily. This is essentially the same process that led to the establishment of Israel - dividing the British Mandate of Palestine into little pieces.

The same process began anew after WW2 as the strength of Western European empires waned, and independence movements flourished in Egypt, Algeria and others.

RE: Paranoid state
By TSS on 10/5/2012 8:22:58 AM , Rating: 2
Iran isn't your neighbour. Neither is israel. They're 2 countries halfway across the world from you.

Know who iran's neighbours are? Russia and China. And they seem to get much less worked up about the whole situation.

RE: Paranoid state
By tayb on 10/5/2012 9:13:53 AM , Rating: 2
The real analogy would be should you blow up some guys house a few miles away because he is threatening his neighbor who is a friend of yours?

Iran has been making these threats for decades. Literally. They don't need a nuke to cause serious damage to Israel and kill many people. Chemical weapons are much much easier to obtain. If Iran wanted to kill Israelites and start a war with Israel they already would have. They could do it right now. The reason they haven't is the same reason they won't... attacking Israel mpwiuld unequivocally lead to the destruction of Iran.

If you believe war with Iran is so desirable I implore you to put your money where your mouth is an enlist in the armed forces.

RE: Paranoid state
By Ammohunt on 10/5/2012 11:49:36 AM , Rating: 2
If you believe war with Iran is so desirable I implore you to put your money where your mouth is an enlist in the armed forces.

Been there done that got the T-shirt in the ARMY and as a defense contractor i would go back in a second if needed. I don't desire war at all but at the same time i refuse to suffer bullies or countries that behave like malcontent, spoiled children.

RE: Paranoid state
By Moishe on 10/5/2012 3:43:33 PM , Rating: 1
Anyone sane does not want war... but that doesn't meant hat it isn't necessary at times.

The idea that Iran is all talk is very naive. It's an unpredictable situation. Iran has never had the means to act on their talk. Without a nuke, Israel would kick Iran to the stone ages. With a nuke, Iran becomes actually able to backup the speech with action.

Governments that have a great deal of control over their people often use external threats as a means of control. Iran is doing this with Israel, the U.S. is doing this with terrorism, etc. The one part of this that is really troubling is that Arabs actually hate Jews, and Islam is the most violent and crazy religion of all time. So we can dismiss the normal stuff as being normal, but with Iran, there is a bit of extra caution that is probably warranted.

Personally, I think every country has the right to develop and advance. We shouldn't be making nukes easy to get, but we shouldn't step on their sovereignty either.

Peace loving Americans want to apply their cultural beliefs to the world. Dictators won't bribe. They won't kill, rape, murder, cheat, or play dirty.... Right?

Hell no. Reality is that the world is full of evil and many horrific things have happened and will happen again. The only defense is to be strong and have the will to use your strength to defend when someone attacks.

The whole idea of war is that people are afraid that massive weapons in the hands of the right crazy person will result in massive death. It's a realistic fear. We should respect Iran's desire to be strong, but we should also be stronger and have the will to blow them to hell if they act like a crazy man.

Or, as the western world sees it, we (the world) should just limit their freedom to grow and prevent them from achieving strength, so that our own strength is never challenged. This is naive, but it's the general path that everyone takes.

I would bet that if Iran were the world power, that's the same approach they'd take too, except they would be much more cruel to anyone trying to rise up.

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