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Table of Contents
- Censorship and Filtering
- Blogger and Netizen Arrests
- Cyber Attacks
- Internet and Social Media Use
IRAN: Increasing number of blogs filtered daily
Alireza Shirazi, Director of BlogFa, one of the most well-known Persian blogging services, tweeted [Farsi] that approximately 100 blogs are filtered daily. Teribon, a news agency, published a story on Shirazi’s tweet, but was removed [Farsi] from the website following an order from the Commission to Determine Instances of Criminal Content, the decision making body that works under the attorney general’s guidance.
IRAN: The moon of Shawwal and the filtering of Grand Ayatollahs’ websites
The official websites of two Shi’a Grand Ayatollahs were temporarily blocked [Farsi] and one other hacked after they announced that the holiday of Eid al-Fitr was to fall on a different day than that announced by Ayatollah Khamenei. The appearance of the moon of Shawwal (Estehlal), which marks the end of Ramadan, has always been a point of contention between the Grand Ayatollahs. Several years ago, the Iranian newspaper Kayhan asked [Farsi] the Grand Ayatollahs to approve Khamenei’s announcement and avoid publicly announcing dates that are contradictory to the Supreme Leader’s.
IRAN: More restrictions on Iranian websites and blogs
The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has formed [Farsi] a new working group, called Rasad (Observation), to monitor 38,000 registered websites more closely and identify any instances of “immoral or politically disruptive content”. As previously reported, the working group is one of many organizations that assist the Commission to Determine Instances of Criminal Content in controlling cyberspace. After detecting such instances, the Commission makes the final decision [Farsi] and issues judicial orders as appropriate.
IRAN: Filtering of Apple’s App Store and iTunes
The Iranian government has blocked access to Apple’s iTunes and App Store after months of allowing access to Iranians users. IT Iran published [Farsi] an article on the decision, calling the ban “an unfair action and additional obstacle for Iranian people who are already facing various challenges in accessing the information and software products, including applications with Islamic themes, or in Persian language, that they need.”
JORDAN: Supporting Internet freedom through social media
The Jordan Open Source Association recently announced that it will launch a social media campaign in defence of Internet freedom as a response to the previously reported anti-pornography movement underway in the country. The association has been critical of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology’s request that Internet service providers block pornographic sites. It has also condemned amendments to the 1998 Press and Publications Law [PDF] that give the government the right to block non-Jordanian sites considered in violation of the law.
SAUDI ARABIA: Objections over new web extensions
Saudi Arabia’s Communication and Information Technology Commission has objected to 163 new top-level domain extensions on “‘moral’ and health grounds.” These complaints have been lodged with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names (ICANN), and included extensions such as .casino, .bar, .sex and .gay.
BAHRAIN: Activist Nabeel Rajab sentenced
Prominent human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who had been arrested early this year for his criticism of the Bahraini government on Twitter, was sentenced to three years in prison for participating in illegal assemblies. A written statement by several members of the US Congress was sent to Bahrain’s King Hamad al-Khalifa, which expressed concern over Rajab’s arrest as well as other Bahrainis on crimes relating to freedom of expression. Rajab’s conviction for his comments on Twitter has been recently overturned, though the conviction on his alleged participation in illegal assemblies has remained unchanged. Bahrain has arrested a number of bloggers and online activists over the past few months and recently cracked down on online activity considered “blasphemous” and “detrimental to sectarian relations in the country”.
IRAN: Preparations for anticipated cyber attacks during NAM Summit
Mahmoud Khosravi, CEO of Iran’s government-controlled Telecommunications Infrastructure Company, announced [Farsi] that Iran is fully prepared for any possible cyber attacks during the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran. Hosting the summit, which is Iran’s largest international event in years and featuring dozens of leaders from around the world, is part of the government’s efforts to shed its image as a global pariah.
IRAN: Armed forces involvement in battling cyber war
Fars News Agency reported [Farsi] that Iran is planning to involve its armed forces in combating possible cyber attacks. Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, the deputy chief of Iran’s joint armed forces, announced that, in collaboration with other organizations, the armed forces will set up a separate headquarters to take part in areas of “cyber war, cyber defence, and cultural invasions”.
SAUDI ARABIA: Hackers post fake story to Reuters website
On August 15, Reuters news agency reported that hackers had gained access to its website and posted a false news story about the death of Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal. The report claimed that the minister had passed away due to medical complications shortly after stomach surgery. As Citizen Lab previously reported, Reuters has recently been subject to similar attacks.
SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi Aramco hit by computer virus
Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, was hit by a computer virus on August 15. Saudi Aramco posted a response to the attack on its Facebook page, stating that the “interruption has had no impact whatsoever on any of the company’s production operations” and that the virus had likely originated on the personal workstations of its employees. The Arab Youth Group claimed responsibility for the attack on Pastebin and warned Saudi rulers that they “will face more severe action” if they “continue to betray the nation.”
SYRIA: Pro-government hackers use fake anti-hacking tool to target activists
Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Morgan Marquis-Boire, a Technical Advisor at the Citizen Lab, have issued a report on the discovery of new malware targeted at Syrian opposition groups. A fake security program called “AntiHacker” claims to provide “Auto-Protect & Auto-Detect & Security & Quick scan and analysing.” In reality, the programs installs a remote administration tool called DarkComet RAT. Citizen Lab has previously reported numerous instances of targeted malware attacks against anti-government opposition groups, most notably using BlackShades RAT.
IRAN: Government requires registration of social networking websites
Social networking websites, like other public forums and weblogs, must be registered [Farsi] with the Iranian government and must apply for a permit to operate from the country’s Information Technology and Digital Media Development Center. According to Hassan Alizadeh, director of the Center, social networking websites will face legal obstacles if they do not take both steps.
IRAN: Users refuse to set up national e-mail address to protect their identities
As previously reported, the Iranian government has encouraged Iranians to use “.ir” e-mail addresses. However, Iranian users have expressed concerns against signing up because the registration process requires a significant amount of personal information. Ali Hakim Javadi, head of Iran’s Information Technology Organization, stated [Farsi] that although the ultimate goal is to be able to identify individual users, e-mail providers have been asked to minimize the amount of personal data that they collect.
KUWAIT: Twitter attacked as a vehicle for “spreading discord”
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) has condemned a statement made by Suleiman Hamoud, Undersecretary of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Information, in which he publicly attacked Twitter as a vehicle for “spreading discord.” In its statement, ANHRI called on Kuwaiti authorities to “stop the campaign launched against ‘Twitter’ and leave space for its users to express their views.” Kuwait has proposed criminalizing the “misuse” of social media and, as previously reported, has even arrested a member of the Kuwaiti royal family for political remarks made on Twitter.
SYRIA: Syrian government seeks out Chinese companies for Internet bandwidth
In light of growing international pressure and US-imposed sanctions, the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment has established business links with Chinese companies for Internet bandwidth. Renesys, a global Internet intelligence firm, reported on its blog that PCCW, a Hong Kong-based telecom company, is now providing the majority of Syria’s Internet traffic. Unlike the US and many European countries, China has not imposed economic or political sanctions on Bashar al-Assad’s government.
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