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Iran to unplug from Web to escape West’s ‘Internet monopoly’

Published time: August 06, 2012 09:03
Edited time: August 06, 2012 13:03
A customer uses a computer at an internet cafe in Tehran (Reutes / Raheb Homavandi)

A customer uses a computer at an internet cafe in Tehran (Reutes / Raheb Homavandi)

Tehran plans to remove its key ministries and state bodies from the Internet next month, calling the worldwide web “untrustworthy.” The action is the first phase in a planned Iranian project to replace the Internet with a domestic intranet.

­The country’s key ministries will be unplugged from the global network as early as September, in a move Tehran said is aimed at protecting sensitive intelligence.

Iran’s Ministry of Communications and Technology announced earlier this year that it would launch a domestic intranet to replace the Web. The system will reportedly be operational in 18 months.

"The establishment of the national intelligence network will create a situation where the precious intelligence of the country won't be accessible to these powers," Iranian Minister of Communication and Information Technology Reza Taqipour said on Sunday.

Taqipour went on to blast the monopoly control of the Internet by a handful of Western countries.

"The Internet should not be in the hands of one or two specific countries," Iran’s FARS news agency quoted him as saying at a conference at Tehran's Amir Kabir University. Taqipour explained his argument by citing how the Internet has become an indispensable element of economic, security and social policy.

The decision to switch to an internal network is believed to have been caused by a series of hacking attempts and cyber attacks against Iran. Iranian nuclear facilities were reportedly attacked by a musical virus in July, turning on lab computers at night and blasting AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck.’   

Experts at Russia’s Kaspersky Laboratories exposed a Trojan virus called Flame in May 2012, which was designed to spy on web activity in Iran and some Middle Eastern nations. Russian cybersecurity experts labeled Flame “probably the most complicated virus ever.” Flame was believed to have targeted Iran's oil ministry and main export terminals.

The country’s nuclear program also suffered serious setbacks from the state-of-the-art Stuxnet virus. Stuxnet targeted computers running uranium enrichment centrifuges at Iran's nuclear facility in Natanz, destroying thousands of centrifuges and setting the country’s nuclear program back months, experts said.

Both Flame and Stuntex are believed to have been a joint development by the US and Israel.

The only other country to have its own intranet is North Korea. Dubbed Kwangmyong, the system was deployed in 2000 and is the only network available to North Korean citizens. Only a small number of government-authorized individuals are allowed to use the Internet.

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