Iran's Cyber War

According to initial reports, at the end of the election day in Iran, the communications black-out in Iran began. Citizens reported problems with using mobile networks and the Internet. Externally, people outside of Iran detected massive re-routing of the networks that connect Iran to the rest of the Internet. All these indicate that there is a communication outage happening in Iran. This has later been confirmed by further analysis. However, Iran hasn’t been disconnected from the Internet. It has merely been routed through specific paths in order for traffic to be better monitored and controlled.

All this control began to make sense once you factor in that various social networking sites have been blocked in Iran during the run-up to the elections such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Control is much easier to maintain if the Internet is forced to go through specific information pipes on the Internet. You know that the cyber war reached new heights when the US State Department steps in and asks Twitter to defer their regular network maintenance in order to prevent outages in Iran.

So, the Iranian government tried to put a lock on information getting out. Unfortunately, governments are never very good at blocking the Internet.

See, our crazy-ass god-father of the open-source movement has painted a big target on his back by being the front-man for ‘NedaNet‘ (named after the lady who died in the previous video), a network of proxy servers to allow Iranians to gain access to the rest of the Internet. He has asked for others to sign up voluntarily. I was curious and checked out the configuration settings that he had provided. This got me laughing.

It seems that the Iranian government is happy with blocking a number of different sites and services. But god forbid that they block online games. Goodness knows that the country will be thrown into turmoil if the people were cut off from games. Seriously, the way in which the Internet traffic is currently getting out of Iran is by piggy-backing on gaming services. Let me say that again. Iran is blocking a lot of traffic, but not gaming traffic. In fact, researchers have confirmed that WoW and Xbox traffic is not being blocked at all.

From the configuration file given, other games that are on the free-access list are the likes of Heretic 2, Hexen 2, Baldur’s Gate, Asheron’s Call, Anarchy Online. Users have been advised to select other services as the Iranian government cuts off these games one by one. In fact, it also lists out the IP blocks owned by the Iranian government in order to block those out too. Hilarious!

Seriously man. Who knew that playing a game of Warcraft could actually help contribute to fighting Internet censorship.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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