Hackers in Iran set up fake news websites in cyberattack on US

"An elaborate, three-year cyberespionage campaign against United States military contractors, members of Congress, diplomats, lobbyists and Washington-based journalists has been linked to hackers in Iran." The NYT's Nicole Perlroth has more from a report released this week by the Dallas computer security firm iSight Partners.

Netanyahu briefly follows Persian sex site on Twitter

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, briefly followed an Iranian "sex feed" over the weekend. At the time, reports Ilan Ben Zion, @PersianHotBook had only 15 followers—and it soon lost its latest fan.

The apparent Twitter faux pas was the second for Netanyahu among Iranians in a little over a week, after he was roundly mocked on social media for telling BBC Persian that Iranians should overthrow their government so they can be free to wear jeans. That comment was followed on Twitter by a groundswell of pictures of ordinary Iranians showing off their denim duds.

The Likud Central Committee said that it runs the account, that it suffered a "malfunction," and that it is investigating the "malfunction."

Leary's "Declaration of Evolution" in English and Persian


Lisa Rein sez "A first-ever Persian translation of any of Timothy Leary's writings is now available. The text, a 'Declaration of Evolution,' is a manifesto Leary wrote for the psychedelic generation, modeled on the 1776 American 'Declaration of Independence." It is presented in a bilingual (Persian and English) format.

"It was first published in Leary's The Politics of Ecstasy and reprinted in the underground press, before being published separately in 1970 as a pamphlet by the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, who later the same year engineered Leary's prison escape by the Weather Underground. It has been out-of-print since then."

Read the rest

Iranian government unveils finger-amputating machine for punishing "thieves"


The Iranian government has released photos of a machine that amputates thieves fingers using the state media agency. The photos show a blindfolded man having his finger amputated, though he displays no visible distress. The Telegraph speculates that he might be drugged.

Read the rest

Women practicing parkour in Iran

Here's a short video of a woman parkour team from Lahijan, Iran, practicing in hijabs and mantos. The sport apparently spread through illicit satellite TV viewing:

Despite having to practise in unwieldy clothing – not to mention having to stay on the lookout for police - Iranian women are getting into the sport of parkour. Some even create videos in which they show off their skills, and post them online. One of these brave women tells us about the challenges of practising parkour in an Islamic republic.

Parkour involves moving around urban obstacles as quickly as possible. Athletes run up walls, scale fences, jump between roofs, do back flips, and much more. The sport first originated in the 1980s with a small group of athletes in the suburbs of Paris, but only rose to fame in the 2000s with the film “Yamakasi.” Parkour has since spread throughout the world thanks to the Internet, everywhere from Gaza to Egypt to Iran.

Headscarves and long tunics don’t stop Iranian women from practising parkour (Thanks, Alan!)

At least 34 people have died in earthquakes in Iran

A 6.3 earthquake and one with a magnitude of 7.8 hit Western Iran in the course of just a week. These are largely rural areas, with a lot of mud brick buildings that tend to collapse when the earth shakes. It's hard to say how many casualties there are, in total. Scientifically speaking, the earthquakes were also fairly interesting, writes Chris Rowan at Highly Allochthonous. They happened in different — in fact, totally opposite — ways, with the smaller one happening as plates crashed into one another and the larger caused by tectonic plates moving away from each other. This was along the same plate boundary. How's that work? Rowan has the details.

American once placed in solitary confinement in Iran explores solitary confinement in US prisons

Brilliant multimedia, multi-part feature in Mother Jones by Shane Bauer, one of the American hikers who was arrested by Iranian authorities on the Iran-Iraq border, then placed in solitary, then eventually released.

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How Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light transformed into the CIA's Argo covert op

To facilitate the return of six US diplomats trapped in Iran, during the 1979 hostage crisis, CIA technician Tony Mendez concocts an incredible cover story: they’re part of a film crew, scouting out locations in the Islamic republic for an epic science fiction movie. But one core prop is hard to find at short-notice: a convincing, ready-to-shoot screenplay.

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Experience the Iranian Internet in central London

Runa from the Tor Project sez, "What is the Iranian Internet? How does it feel to be censored? Filtered? Under constant surveillance? Unsure? Restricted? Oppressed? On Wednesday September 26, Small Media will transform their office in central London into a space where you can really get a feel of how it feels to be oppressed by censorship." (Thanks, Runa!) Cory

Report: hackers targeting Iranian nuclear facilities "AC/DC-rolled" workstations after attack

Mikko H. Hypponen of F-Secure publishes an email he claims is from a scientist with the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (or AEOI), which details a new "cyber attack" wave against Iranian nuclear systems.

Snip: "There was also some music playing randomly on several of the workstations during the middle of the night with the volume maxed out. I believe it was playing 'Thunderstruck' by AC/DC."

Mikko can't validate the email or the tale therein, and neither can we, but if it's true? Heh.

* The 'shoop above is mine, not the hackers'.

Stuxnet, the worm that targeted Iran's nuclear facilities, was created by US and Israel


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inspects centrifuges at a uranium enrichment plant.

Reporting for the New York Times, David Sanger confirms what internet security researchers suspected all along: Stuxnet, the worm that targeted computers in Iran's central nuclear enrichment facilities, was a US/Israeli project and part of an expanded effort at cyberweaponry by the Obama administration.

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Iranian finance/tech manager publishes 3,000,000 bank accounts' details and PINs

A finance technology manager named Khosrow Zarefarid discovered a critical flaw in Iran's online banking systems. He extracted 1,000 account details (including card numbers and PINs) and emailed them to the CEOs of 22 Iranian banks along with detailed information about the vulnerability. A year later, nothing had been done. Zarefarid extracted 3 million accounts' details from the bank's systems and posted them to ircard.blogspot.ca. Many Iranian banks have now frozen their customers' accounts and are only allowing PIN-change transactions at ATMs. Some banks have texted their customers to warn them of the breach. The Central Bank of Iran has published an official notice of the breach, but the notice does not say that the underlying vulnerability has been fixed, or even whether it is being addressed. Zarefarid is said to have left Iran, though his whereabouts are not known, at least to Emil Protalinski, who wrote about the breach for ZDNet:

It does not appear as if Zarefarid stole money from the accounts; he merely dumped the account details of around 3 million individuals, including card numbers and PINs, on his blog: ircard.blogspot.ca. I found the link via his Facebook account, along with the question “Is your bank card between thease 3000000 cards?”

...Zarefarid previously worked as a manager at a company called Eniak, which operates the Shetab (Interbank Information Transfer Network) system, an electronic banking clearance and automated payments system used in Iran. The company also manufactures and installs point of sale (POS) devices. In other words, Zarefarid worked for a firm that offered services to Iranian banks for accepting electronic payments.

Update: In a post to the ircard blog, Zarefarid clarifies what he has done, and claims he is not a "hacker." (via "Khosrow Zarefarid, in the comments)

3 million bank accounts hacked in Iran (via /.)

Iran's "Halal Internet" evolves into a mere more-ambitious censorship regime


Iran's governing elite have been making noises for years now about the construction of a "Halal Internet," a kind of national intranet with its own email service, microblogging, search tools, etc. Now a leaked Persian-language "Request for Information" from the Research Institute for ICT in Tehran, which consults on technology for Iran's Ministry of ICT suggests that the plan has evolved into a more ambitious version of the existing national censorship regime. In Ars Technica, Cyrus Farivar analyzes the proposal:

Collin Anderson, the researcher who found the document, said this RFI shows an unexpected shortcoming of the Iranian government to capitalize on its own domestic ability and recent deals with Chinese telecom companies such as Huawei and ZTE.

Huawai said late last year it was pulling out of Iran. ZTE, meanwhile, has previously sold millions of dollars of telecom and surveillance equipment to the Islamic Republic.

"I believe this clearly demonstrates that the Iranian government does not intend on cutting off access to the external Internet time soon," Anderson told Ars on Tuesday, explaining that the acquisition of a censorship system would not be necessary if Iran was trying to create a highly restricted whitelist or completely cut itself off from the Internet.

"This might suggest that the government has not been able to acquire the services of foreign companies for planning and optimizing an infrastructure," he added.

"This is surprising for those, including me, who believe that much of the censorship software and hardware was being developed internally. The RFI seems to imply the desire to move beyond blacklisting sites and keywords, to a more intelligent system of detecting and blocking ‘immoral’ content, such as pornographic or culturally offensive material."

I'm in the middle of reading Rebecca McKinnon's Consent of the Networked, which is probably the best single book on the subject I've read to date (review coming soon). McKinnon's analysis of Iran and other Middle-Eastern dictatorships is that they're stuck playing catch-up relative to China, and will have a hard time replicating China's strategy of combining censorship with floods of pro-government astroturfers and popular national alternatives to services like Facebook and Twitter, because Iranians have already widely adopted the "western" technologies and would aggressively circumvent national blocks for non-political reasons, providing cover for political dissidents.

Security researcher unearths plans for Iran's halal Internet

(Image: Internet censorship/blocking, Iran, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from 39967291@N04's photostream)

Iran denies reports that internet will be cut, replaced by "clean, national intranet"


PHOTO: Technicians monitor data flow in the control room of an internet service provider in Tehran February 15, 2011. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

There's an AFP item today on Iran's denial of online reports that it plans to shut off access to the Internet this August, replacing that access with a "national intranet." Snip:

The reports derived from a supposed interview with Communications Minister Reza Taghipour published on April 1 that was in fact a hoax, the ministry said in the statement on its own site www.ict.gov.ir -- which itself was not accessible outside of Iran. “The report is in no way confirmed by the ministry” and is “completely baseless,” the ministry statement said.

The hoax report quoted Taghipour saying that Iran would from August launch a “clean internet” that would block popular services like Google and Hotmail and replace them with government-sponsored search engines and e-mail services. The ministry statement slammed the false report as serving “the propaganda wing of the West and providing its hostile media with a pretext emanating from a baseless claim.”

(via Jillian York)

Iran attacks internet access on Islamic Revolution anniversary

At Hacker News, a user named "Sara70" posts:

I'm writing this to report the serious troubles we have regarding accessing Internet in Iran at the moment. Since Thursday Iranian government has shutted down the https protocol which has caused almost all google services (gmail, and google.com itself) to become inaccessible. Almost all websites that reply on Google APIs (like wolfram alpha) won't work. Accessing to any website that replies on https (just imaging how many websites use this protocol, from Arch Wiki to bank websites). Also accessing many proxies is also impossible. There are almost no official reports on this and with many websites and my email accounts restricted I can just confirm this based on my own and friends experience. I have just found one report here. The reason for this horrible shutdown is that the Iranian regime celebrates 1979 Islamic revolution tomorrow.

Jake Appelbaum and the Tor Project folks confirm that Iran is partially blocking encrypted network traffic, and they are trying to help ensure free and safe access for activists (and everyone else inside the country).

More at Washington Post, at CNET, and The Next Web.

(via @jadi)

PHOTO: Iranian schoolgirls chat online at an internet cafe which is exclusively for females, near the city of Karaj, 60km (38 miles) west of Tehran, May 24, 2007. REUTERS.