First round in Internet war goes to Iranian intelligence
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
June 28, 2009, 4:00 PM (GMT+02:00)
Millions of sympathizers around the world looked forward to seeing Iran's protest movement using the Internet for the first online coup in history. Instead, the Iranian Islamic regime turned the tables: Its Internet police, arguably the largest in the world, pushed "control," "halt," "delete" and "send" buttons to activate a deadly weapon for suppressing the movement, as soon as it took to the streets to protest the June 12 election which was believed to have given Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a false victory.
By Sunday, June 28, when the Guardian Council was to hand down its final verdict on their complaints, the street rallies had petered out.
Part of the reason, DEBKAfile's intelligence sources report, was their organizers' heavy reliance on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other social sites to orchestrate their protest movement. They did not at first appreciate that Iranian intelligence Internet experts, operating from secret headquarters established months ago, were using their communications to shoot them down.
According to our sources, that headquarters is located at the telecom center on Sepah (Khomenei) Square in Tehran. It was built for the Shah in the 1970s by the Israel construction contractors Solel Boneh and designed by Israeli intelligence and telecommunications experts.
The high-end apparatus, installed in late 2008 by the German Siemens AG and Finnish Nokia Corp. cell phone giant, gave Iranian intelligence the most advanced tools anywhere for controlling, inspecting, censoring and altering Internet and cell phone messaging. Those tools were being used weeks before the poll to identify penetrations by alien spy services, their local agents and dissident activists.
This system is capable of conducting "deep packet inspection" of every type of text and video communication in all parts of Iran on three tracks:
1. Like other advanced electronic spy systems in the world, this one uses such keywords as attack, weapons, cash, data, explosives, meeting, demonstration, resistance, protest, etc. to alert Iran within milliseconds to feeds of interest by computer or phone - mail, signals or visuals.
In a flash, intelligence analysts get a fix on the sender and the electronic addressee which are then placed on a surveillance list for further monitoring. Once identified, the sender or receiver and their connections are closely shadowed by field agents.
2. By "deep packet inspection," the secret controllers can cause delays in online data transfers, which surfers may attribute to glitches connected with their providers. The more targets under surveillance, the more online transfers are slowed down.
DEBKAfile's Iranian sources report that the day after the presidential poll and resulting street outbreaks, Iran's Internet control and tracking supervisors took over the 10 leading service providers in the country. Their first action was to slow down incoming and outgoing cyber traffic from 1,500 to 54 kilobytes to make sure that not a single byte by Internet or cell phone to or from protest leaders escaped their notice.
Tehran has vented its ire on Britain because it is accused of providing the organizers of the dissident movement with London telephone numbers to circumvent the deliberate slowdown of online traffic from inside the country. These numbers gave anti-government activists instant, direct links through Western Internet providers for getting their messages out to the world. Iran suspects they were laid on by British intelligence.
Eventually, the British lines became jammed by overload.
3. Iranian intelligence made cynical use of the large amount of electronic and personal data accumulated on anti-regime elements. Instead of detaining their prey at once, Iranian intelligence invaded their computers and cell phones to plant false leads for smoking unsuspecting activists out in the open and keeping them under inspection.
Within a few days of their protest, Mir Hossein Mousavi and the bulk of his supporters, realizing their electronic campaign had been taken over by the regime to hunt them down, disappeared from the streets of Tehran.
Wednesday, June 24, when the extent of the damage the Iranian Internet invasion had inflicted on American interests was brought home to him, US secretary of defense Robert Gates ordered a special cyber defense system set up to protect the US armed forces' 15,000 Web sites, which encompass seven million computers. Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency, was put in charge of getting the new system up and running by the end of 2010.
Tuesday, June 23, a group of US senators led by the Republic presidential candidate John McCain and independent Joe Lieberman initiated legislation to fund a cyber defense system capable of combating Internet assaults like the one mounted by the Iranian government.
Review my article dated April 8th, 2008: SIEMENS: HAS THE LEOPARD CHANGED ITS SPOTS?
World War II Era
Preceding World War II Siemens was involved in the secret rearmament of Germany. During the Second World War, Siemens supported the Hitler regime, contributed to the war effort and participated in the "Nazification" of the economy. Siemens had many factories in and around notorious extermination camps such as Auschwitz and used slave labor from concentration camps to build electric switches for military uses. In one example, almost 100,000 men and women from Auschwitz worked in a Siemens factory inside the camp, supplying the electricity to the camp. The crematorium ovens at Buchenwald bear the Siemens label.
Report: German Company Sold Iran Surveillance Equipment
(IsraelNN.com) The German company Siemens was very likely responsible for selling sophisticated surveillance equipment to Iran, according to the Jerusalem Post. Austrian investigative journalist Erich Moechel first broke the story.
Moechel said he was "99 percent certain" that Siemens had provided Iran with equipment used to track landline and cellular phone conversations. Iran also purchased "Intelligence Platform" systems allowing it to monitor financial transactions and travel, he said.
Siemens spokesmen did not confirm or deny the allegations, but said the company was careful to obey all European Union guidelines regarding trade with Iran.
Contemporary scholars are continuing to learn about the extent to which Siemens, and every major German business in the Thirties and Forties, was implicated in the brutality of Nazi economic policies, most egregiously through the abuse of forced and slave laborers. Siemens ran factories at Ravensbrück and in the Auschwitz subcamp of Bobrek, among others, and the company supplied electrical parts to other concentration and death camps. In the camp factories, abysmal living and working conditions were ubiquitous: malnutrition and death were not uncommon. Recent scholarship has established how, despite German industry's repeated denials, these camp factories were created, run, and supplied by the SS in conjunction with company officials -- sometimes high-level employees.
And this from the Wall Street Journal: Notice how they play so self-righteous - it is all for the benefit of humanity, of course. These evil monsters are hypocrites too.COMBATING TERRORISM in Iran? Please explain to me, maybe I don't quite understand: I thought the Iranian regime IS TERROR!
How do you say "Operation Pinwale" in Farsi?
According to a somewhat confusing Wall Street Journal story,( what's so confusing about this? It seems very clear to me: we are talking collaboration with the Iranian regime here, DS) Iran has adopted NSA-like techniques and installed equipment on its national telecommunication network last year that allows it to spy on the online activities and correspondence — including the content of e-mail and VoIP phone calls — of its internet users.
Nokia Siemens Networks, a joint venture between Germany's Siemens and Finland's Nokia, installed the monitoring equipment late last year in Iran's government-controlled telecom network, Telecommunication Infrastructure Co., but authorities only recently engaged its full capabilities in response to recent protests that have broken out in the country over its presidential election.
The equipment allows the state to conduct deep-packet inspection, which sifts through data as it flows through a network searching for keywords in the content of e-mail and voice transmissions. According to the Journal, Iran seems to be doing this for the entire country from a single choke point. "Seems," because although the Journal states that Nokia Siemens installed the equipment and that signs indicate the country is conducting deep-packet inspection, the paper also says "it couldn't be determined whether the equipment from Nokia Siemens Networks is used specifically for deep packet inspection."
Although the Journal has published questionable "spying" stories in the past, we're willing to go with them on this one.
It's previously been reported that Iran was blocking access to some web sites for people inside the country as protesters took to the streets and the internet to dispute the results of the country's recent presidential election.
But sources told the Journal that the government's activities have gone beyond censorship to massive spying. They say the deep-packet inspection, which deconstructs data in transit then reconstructs it, could be responsible for network activity in Iran having recently slowed to less than a tenth of its regular speed. The slowdown could be caused by the inspection at a single point, rather than at numerous network points, as China reportedly does it.
A brochure promoting the equipment sold to Iran says the technology allows for "the monitoring and interception of all types of voice and data communication on all networks."
A spokesman for Nokia Siemens Networks defended the sale of the equipment to Iran suggesting that the company provided the technology with the idea that it would be used for "lawful intercept," such as combating terrorism, child pornography, drug trafficking and other criminal activity. Equipment installed for law enforcement purposes, however, can easily be used for spying as well.
"If you sell networks, you also, intrinsically, sell the capability to intercept any communication that runs over them," the spokesman told the Journal.
He added that the company "does have a choice about whether to do business in any country" but said, "We believe providing people, wherever they are, with the ability to communicate is preferable to leaving them without the choice to be heard."
In March, the company sold off its monitoring technology to a German investment firm.
Now this piece of business news, just days ago:
I am not sure exactly what EXPANDING ITS NORTH AMERICAN PRESENCE MEANS, but if the IRANIAN MODEL IS ANY INDICATION... WE ARE IN BIG TROUBLE HERE!
....Nokia Siemens, the world's No. 2 maker of wireless telecommunications gear by sales, has long sought to expand its North American presence....
What is also glaring in its absence is any kind of CONDEMNATION, or SANCTION, by the German government. After all, they have known about Siemens's activities in Iran for a long time. Have YOU heard about any fine, or prosecution, or incarceration, of Siemens executives regarding this specific matter? I haven't.
On the other hand, they have been FINED and INVESTIGATED over OTHER MATTERS, mind you, both in the U.S. and in Germany: over corruption and bribery issues. But what about the issue of COLLABORATION with an enemy? Nothing.
Siemens even uses as their defense the argument that they are not violating any criteria of the European Union regarding trade with Iran.
What this tells us is something very clear about both Germany and Europe's, and even the United States' position re: Siemens's activities in Iran: TACIT ACQUIESCENCE. The leadership of Iran is obviously NOT an enemy in their eyes, and it is OK to give it the most advanced technological capability, both to oppress their own population, and of course to SPY ON ISRAEL, so it can destroy it better.
.... and we already know WHO the European Union works for.....
SEE ALSO MY POST: A WRITER'S VIEW OF TODAY'S GERMANY.
THE LEOPARD, TRULY, HAS NOT CHANGED ITS SPOTS!
Update, 7/17/09 AsiaNews
» 07/17/2009 16:18
Nokia accused of being in the service of VEVAK, Iran’s spy agency
Iran’s opposition calls for a boycott of Nokia and Siemens, accused of providing Iran’s secret services with technology capable of monitoring telephone use. Along with the Pasdaran and Basij, the powerful spy agency has one main purpose, to crush the country’s democratic aspirations, by torture and beheading if necessary.
Tehran (AsiaNews) – A month ago Ahmadinejad’s opponents used electronic means of communication to organise and broaden their protest. The regime’s first reaction was to unleash the brutal Basij, the “volunteers” of the Revolution.
Such armed militiamen are the foot soldiers of Iran’s domestic secret service, the VEVAK, which is part of the Ministry of Intelligence (MOI). With some 20,000 employees, the MOI is at the disposal of Iran’s hard-line rulers, men like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. But at one time, when Rafsanjani was president, the VEVAK was in the “state terrorism” big time, threatening and killing the regime’s opponents even in Western countries.
According to Yves Bonnet, a former director of the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST) (Directorate of Territorial Surveillance, the French secret service), in just two month in 1988 the VEVAK executed some 33,000 people on the order of Khomeini. No wonder then, that the VEVAK is listed as a “terrorist organisation in some countries like Canada”.1
Today the domestic spy agency runs its own prisons, torturing and beheading enemies of the state. Unlike the Pasdaran and the Basij whose task is to keep an eye on the streets of Iranian cities, VEVAK’s business is spying on Iranians and propaganda, great tools to undermine Iran’s pro-reform and pro-democracy movement.
Recent reports suggested that two major European mobile phone companies, Nokia and Siemens, with big sales in Iran (especially Nokia), have sold Iranian authorities sophisticated surveillance technology. As soon as the information became public a boycott of Nokia products was launched in Iran.
Boycotts are nothing new in the Islamic Republic. In the past “anti-Islamic” or “Zionist” firms have been targeted, sometimes on behalf of the former’s foreign competitors. Whether directly involved or not, this boycott campaign is of high propaganda value for VEVAK because in the current economic climate, fewer Iranians can afford to have a mobile phone. With fewer Iranians willing to test high tech phone surveillance, fewer dangerous messages will be sent.
All this does not mean that the report about Nokia and Siemens is not true. Over the years, business people, journalists and politicians in Tehran have developed the habit of not taking their mobile phones with them into rooms where they meet, leaving them instead outside the entrance or in a separate room. The reason for this is VEVAK’s capability of using any mobile phone left on standby as a microphone to pick up conversations.
Such high level espionage is not the only card up the spy agency’s sleeve. The best way for it to keep on eye on everyone is to monitor phone text messages. Indeed what Tehrani hasn’t received or sent a joke about the clergy or Ahmadinejad? Now fear of getting caught will lead many to censor themselves. And by blocking communications (a technique used at the height of the protest movement), the VEVAK can weaken the opposition and reinforce the image of an all-powerful state.
In order to manipulate public opinion the VEVAK does not rely on technology alone. It has established charities (in favour of suffering Iraqis and Lebanese for example) to show how good Iran is compared to the wicked West.2
Another way for the VEVAK to manipulate public opinion is to organise and invite Westerners on visits to Iran, showing nice things about Iran which will be picked up by the CNN or the BBC. The intent of Iran’s spy masters is not so much to change opinions in the West in favour of the Islamic regime, but rather to show to Iranians with access to Western media that their country is not so bad after all.
In its 30 years of existence the Islamic Republic has learnt how to stay in power. The VEVAK is the equivalent of the Shah’s brutal SAVAK. One of the reasons for the collapse of the Pahlavi regime lies in the decision made by many SAVAK officials and agents to jump ship and join Khomeini and the regime he was setting up.
At present such a “migration” appears very unlikely and this despite the contacts and parallel networks Rafsanjani built years ago inside the services which are now in the hands of his political opponents.
1. BONNET Y., Vevak, Au service des ayatollahs, Paris : Timée-Éditions, 2009, 454 p.
2. So-called collateral damage in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and provocative speeches by George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon have been very useful in demobilising Iran’s opposition.