Previously thought of by Western governments as empty threat, Iran has finally announced yesterday that the country will be served by a domestic Internet network. Reuters reported that Iran is also cutting access to Google. There is word from Iran if the two moves are related.
One of Iran’s deputy minister announced the plan of moving the citizens onto a national intranet system to improve the country’s cyber security. He mentioned that the government offices and agencies have been moved already and the next step involved connecting every Iranians to the network as well.
Reuters also reported that the country’s state television announced that Google’s services including Gmail would be blocked. The TV station quoted a government official named Khoramabadi for the report. He said that Google’s Gmail will no longer be allowed in the country indefinitely.
Reports about Iran’s plan to come up with a national intranet to sanitize cyber threats in the country’s infrastructure surfaced last April . While there was no official declaration about it at that time, reports still continue to linger a few months afterwards about the isolation of the country’s internet system from the World Wide Web. Media sources from Iran itself believe the new system will become operational in March 2013. There is still no indication whether or not the country will be cut off from the outside internet world.
A report from Iranian Students’ News Agency linked the banning of Google in the country to the anti-Islamic film shown in YouTube. The poorly-made film stirred a hornet’s nest in many Arab nations and caused many deaths, including the United States ambassador to Libya. So far, official word from Iran’s government has not confirmed the connection between banning Google and Gmail to the controversial film.
Google has also not confirmed the ban as of this writing.
While the government’s move to isolate the country’s internet infrastructure to the outside world is extreme, many Iranians are not strangers to censorship. The government has already tried several times this year to temporarily sever its population’s access to the Web. The most recent one involved blocking access to all encrypted international sites outside Iran that runs on Secure Socket’s Layer protocol. The population sometimes circumvent the government ban by using proxy servers on Virtual Private Networks so they can access social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
Iran has one of the biggest internet filters for a country in the world, allowing the government to keep track of its citizen’s use of the internet and preventing them from using many sites which it deemed criminal or offensive.
Sites that express opinions are also being routinely blocked by the government.
The Iranian government tightened its cyber security after its nuclear program was attacked in 2010 by a worm called Stuxnet, which caused the centrifuges to malfunction at the country’s main enrichment facility.
Another computer worm was also detected in the control systems of Kharg Island, a big facility that handles a large chunk of Iran’s crude oil exports.