NewsSpecial WireIran Focus comes under cyber attack from Tehran

Iran Focus comes under cyber attack from Tehran

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Iran Focus: London, Feb 24 – A four-week investigation into serious malfunctions in the Iran Focus news site has revealed that the website was the victim of malicious cyber attacks from Tehran, the website’s co-director Javid Akbari said. Iran Focus

London, Feb 24 – A four-week investigation into serious malfunctions in the Iran Focus news site has revealed that the website was the victim of malicious cyber attacks from Tehran, the website’s co-director Javid Akbari said.

Following several spates of irregular service in Iran Focus, the technical department carried out a review of the site’s structural integrity and outside influences to discover possible cause of the disruption in service.

The source of the attacks was difficult to trace as they were occurring in irregular patterns and at times via interim platforms, but after lengthy investigations, it was discovered that several IPs were systematically carrying out DOS (Denial of Service) attacks on the site to disrupt services.

In less than two years, Iran Focus has established itself as a leading source of news and information on Iran and has become the Internet’s most popular English-language website on Iranian news.

“To its credit, Iran Focus has been able to provide reliable news on Iran on an uninterrupted basis and in an objective manner, even though it has never hidden its critical stance vis-à-vis the Islamic regime in Iran”, said Jeremy Hall, a Dubai-based financial affairs analyst who specialises on the Persian Gulf oil and gas industries.

Iran Focus is routinely attacked by Iran’s state-owned media and websites, who variously describe it as a mouthpiece for opposition groups or hostile governments. But some analysts see Tehran’s cyber attacks on Iran Focus not only as a sign of how far the radical government is prepared to go to control information on Iran, but also as an indication of the Islamic theocracy’s vulnerability in this domain.

Exiled journalist Faramarz Sajedi said in a telephone interview from Istanbul that even though the attacks on Iran Focus fall into a well-established pattern, they mark a new level of “anti-Internet” activity by the Iranian regime.

“The clerical authorities in Tehran have never shied away from breaching international agreements to stop the free flow of information to Iranians living in Iran. They have jammed satellite broadcasts in the past and they have an established policy of filtering websites that they don’t want Iranians in Iran to see. But this would be one of the first incidents where Tehran is attacking a website whose readers are mostly outside Iran”, the journalist said.

“The success of Iran Focus must be unnerving some senior officials in the Iranian capital”, Sajedi added.

After pinpointing the IPs responsible for the assaults and analysing their sources, it was discovered that the physical whereabouts of the computers using the IPs were in Tehran. Attacks occurring via interim platforms were in effect being relayed from a master computer to loosely-configured dummy computers which would perform the tasks while at the same time cover their tracks.

Apart from the DOS attacks which seek to suspend the sites service and content flow, more than 6,000 attempts were made at hacking into the site’s back-end illegally.

Further analysis of malicious activities recorded in the server log files made it clear that given the variety of methods utilised, the attacks were not the work of “conventional” internet hackers and were organised in a way to cause daily disruptions of the website’s services.

Iranian-born Mitra Seifi, a U.S.-based civil liberties activist, told Iran Focus that the clerical regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) was most likely behind the disruptions.

“MOIS is involved heavily in cracking down on individuals and organisations that are either opposed to the regime or are involved in exposing its activities”, she said.

Akbari said Iran Focus has taken steps to ensure that the website is well-protected against future attacks.

“We apologise to our readers for the problems they’ve been having in the past month”, Akbari said. “And we’re all extremely grateful for the messages of support and encouragement we’ve been receiving from our readers around the world”.

Akbari said the website was seeking professional advice on how to take legal action against the intruders.

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