Iran is in the process of creating its own version of the Internet, the latest in a string of moves that have rubbed the leaders of the free world the wrong way.
The state-sponsored intranet already has multiple government and academic-based websites as well as email service, The Washington Post reports.
The nation of 74.8 million made a big splash online in the summer of 2009 when outraged citizens took to twitter to organize protests against what was widely thought to be a rigged election. The movement was something of a prelude to the Arab Spring in 2011, when protestors across the Middle East used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype and other social media to organize.
The message was clear: The internet is bad for oppressive regimes. Iran’s measures up to now – blocking select sites that might give citizens revolutionary ideas and throttling the net to the point where much of the modern web is useless – became useless in 2009 when Iranians nearly toppled the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 140 characters at a time.
Instead of trying to keep tabs on and properly control the real internet, Iran seems to have decided to build their own. They control it, and no pesky free-speech organizations will be invited. Naturally, the Obama administration is up in arms about the country’s new project (but hey – at least it’s not nuclear powered).
“We have concerns from not only a human rights perspective, but about the integrity of the Internet,” David Baer, deputy assistant secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said in an interview. “When countries section off parts of the Web, not only do their citizens suffer, everyone does.”
The other problem is that Iranians will no longer be noobs. As they develop and implement an entire net – presumably home to millions of devices – they’ll gain vital knowledge of how networks work, which they can later weaponize.
By “laying down the fiber” and connecting thousands of servers inside Iran, the government would “build on their knowledge of networks and how they operate,” [former NSA Deputy Director Cedric Leighton] said, increasing their capabilities to both launch and repel cyberattacks.
“But no matter what you do, there will always be vulnerabilities in a network,” Leighton said.
The network, as of now, only has about 10,000 devices online according to the Washington Post. Will it be less secure than existing networks, making it a goldmine for the folks at the NSA? Will it work? Time will tell – Iranian officials say some key governmental and military functions will be shifted to the network by the end of the month.