Attack and counter-attack on the Web

The struggle between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration and supporters of Mirhossein Mousavi is also a battle on the Web, with the government censoring communications and counter-attacks on Web sites.


Since Iran announced the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his opponents, who say the vote was rigged, have been using Facebook, Twitter and other new means of communication to keep each other informed and to organise.

While on the streets of Tehran, angry opponents of the regime are still demonstrating; they are also using the Internet to express their anger.

Among the weapons in what has been called a “cyber-revolution” are "denial of service attacks" -- in which government Web sites are bombarded with messages in an attempt to shut them down -- and social-networking and messaging services like Twitter and Facebook.

Some 23 million out of 70 million Iranians have access to the Internet, and there are 400,000 Farsi-language blogs, according to the OpenNet Initiative, which aims “to investigate, expose and analyze Internet filtering and surveillance practices in a credible and non-partisan fashion”.

Tweeting for DOS attacks

The Twitter micro-blogging site has several discussion feeds dedicated to the events after the election. Some, like, have more than 200 posts a minute.

“Dress in black for the demonstration in memory of yesterday’s violence,” some of the posts advised. “Meeting in front of the UN offices in Tehran,” read others.

Yesterday, one of Twitter’s founders, Biz Stone, announced on the Twitter blog that scheduled maintenance by the site’s host, NTT America, had been rescheduled, saying that NTT “recognizes the role Twitter is currently playing as an important communication tool in Iran”.

Web battlefield

Facebook announced Monday that some 150,000 Iranian users were having difficulty connecting to the site. Since the elections on Friday, June 12, authorities have blocked several opposition sites and sites used by the opposition, like Facebook and YouTube.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s official blog
has been down since Monday, June 15, with only a message saying “server is too busy” displayed.

In response, another type of offensive has been under way: a campaign to bombard government Web sites with messages in an attempt to shut them down, a tactic called a “denial of service attacks”.

One Twitter tag, DDOSIran, is devoted to calling on Internet users to participate in “distributed denial-of-service” attacks.

The attackers share information about which sites are under such an attack via e-mail and even publicly accessible documents on the Web.

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