Hack attacks on Twitter and Iranian opposition websites are directing traffic to a web page created by the “Iranian Cyber Army.” The page is all black with a green flag and red lettering that reads in English: “This site has been hacked by the Iranian Cyber Army."
The site indicated no link between the “Iranian Cyber Army” and the Iranian government. But Twitter and Facebook have been critical tools used by the opposition to mobilize street protests since June, and authorities in Iran have frequently targeted them and shut them down.
Several lines of poetry in Farsi at the bottom of the “Cyber Army” page refer to the “Leader,” which is the common term used in Iran for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, suggesting that those who were behind the message could have been loyalists to Iran's Islamic system of rule. The verses read: “If the Leader orders, we will rush forward / If he asks us, we will offer our heads / If he wants us to be patient, we will tolerate and bear it.”
One month ago, Iran’s police chief announced the creation of a special “cyber police” division to counter “Internet crimes.” Fars News agency, which is linked to the Revolutionary Guard, quoted Chief Esmaili Ahmadi-Moqaddam saying his force should “increase its capabilities to counter such violations.”
The message from the “Iranian Cyber Army” to Twitter users continued: “U.S.A. Think They Controlling And Managing Internet By Our Power, So Do Not Try to Stimulation Iranian Peoples To… Now Which Country in Embargo List? Iran USA? We Put them in Embargo List. Take Care.”
Twitter on Friday stated that its domain name records “were temporarily compromised but have now been fixed.”
Twitter attack came as opposition prepared for showdown with government
The attack on Twitter coincided with the start of the holy month of Moharram in Iran, during which, for 10 days, Shiite Muslims mourn the martyrdom in 680 of one of their most hallowed saints, Imam Hossein.
The green flag on the “Cyber Army” page shows the words “Ya Hossein,” with lettering at the top which reads “Hezbollah [Party of God] is victorious.”
The “Cyber Army” page has been appearing for several days on hacked websites of Iran’s opposition, which has for more than six months vigorously protested on the streets and in cyberspace what it considers to be the fraudulent reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June.
The Twitter attack, though also a warning directed toward the US, could be among the first moves to thwart opposition activists preparing for a further showdown with the government during the coming religious holiday. During the holiday, Iranians traditionally take to the streets to march, chanting slogans for Hossein’s memory. The commemoration peaks on the day of Ashoura, which marks the day of Hossein’s death.
Activists plan to use these events as a cover for their own antigovernment protests, capitalizing on the name of the leader of the opposition – candidate and former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi – and on the fact that opposition color is green.
Since before the election campaign, supporters of Mousavi have adjusted a common religious chant for the revered Third Imam Hossein, into one for the opposition: “Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein!”
Powerful eavesdropping and hacking capabilities
Iran already has powerful Internet eavesdropping and hacking capabilities, thanks to systems sold to by Nokia and Siemens. “We didn’t know they could do this much,” a network engineer in Tehran told the Wall Street Journal last June. “Now we know they have powerful things that allow them to do very complex tracking on the network.”
Iran was “drilling into what the population is trying to say,” a California Internet security specialist was quoted as saying in the Journal. “This looks like a step beyond what any other country is doing, including China.”