Iran Well-Prepared to Track Dissent on Social Networks

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 20, 2009 | Go to article overview

Iran Well-Prepared to Track Dissent on Social Networks


Byline: Eli Lake, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Iranian government has high-tech equipment that will enable it to trace thousands of activists who have encouraged the recent demonstrations and spread news about them by using Twitter, cell phones and other Web-based social networks.

The government recently bought sophisticated computer servers and monitoring devices from a German-Finnish joint venture that can catalog cell-phone calls and text messages. The regime also controls Web traffic through a single bank of computers, which makes it easier to filter sites such as Facebook and Twitter and to monitor Iranians who use these sites to communicate with the outside world.

Iran's pervasive surveillance of their digital networks and the use of unencrypted connections by dissidents could be a recipe for reprisals later down the line, Danny O'Brien, the international outreach coordinator for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Washington Times on Thursday.

The fact that Iran runs all of its Web traffic through a single bank of computers, which is how they block Web sites, is also a perfect way to monitor for key words. If you are not using strong encryption, then all those communications could be stored by the government, he said.

The Times reported in April that Iran had acquired what is known as a monitoring center from a joint venture, Nokia-Siemens-Network, late last year. The computer servers and software in the monitoring center allow Iran's telephone company to monitor a vast array of wireless traffic including text messages and voice calls. …

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