An Israeli hacker says it’s easy to bypass the tight Iranian government censorship wrapped around media and the Internet as 50 million citizens head for the polls this Friday.
"In these days of relying on high-level Internet services we often forget that people were able to communicate even in the old days of intelligence before global data networks covered nearly every square meter of the planet," hacker "D." told Arutz Sheva in an exclusive interview on Thursday morning.
"Iran is quite tricky, and even owning a regular TV satellite dish can get you into jail and any type of out-of-the-norm radio transmission will immediately draw attention. But you don’t need anything special. No Internet, no access to satellite phones or anything like that."
Nevertheless, it is quite possible to get information about the elections and what else is happening in the country out of Iran, D. said. And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to do it -- just a little old-fashioned ingenuity.
"People today are just spoiled, and if the images of the Gmail interface come up too slow, they are unable to communicate across borders," D. added with a chuckle. "Text is apparently no longer enough – people want HD video. Otherwise they don’t take things for real."
The hacker went on to explain that the current restrictions placed on the Internet by the Iranian government are a "known situation and not the first time Iran makes it nearly impossible to communicate raw data which is not disguised as regular HTTP web traffic."
However, he added, there are "tricks that can be applied to any anonymity network, like FreenetProject..." and numerous others.
"I hope that certain organizations will become involved and make sure that all the videos taken by people’s smartphones will actually end up on YouTube," he smiled.
Cell phones are indeed being monitored. The Internet is under surveillance. The Independent Media Review and Analysis (IMRA) watchdog organization on Thursday quoted Ali Bangi, director of ASL 19, as saying Iranian authorities have changed their deep packet inspection, and block all packets pre-emptively until proven innocent.
Likewise the government has blocked the ports used by Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) – a tool used by Iranians and journalists to circumvent government censors. This has hampered the use of the TOR, a tool for anonymous Internet use.
The Twitter social networking web site reported to the Commitee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that its recent video about imprisoned journalists was no longer accessible in Iran – but that presidential candidates and the Supreme Leader all operate social media accounts.
Dozens of local journalists have been jailed and numerous web sites and newspapers have been banned.
Of the hundreds of international journalists who applied to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance for visas to cover this week’s election, few were allowed to pass muster. Those granted permission were required to work with a government approved "fixer" who makes the arrangements for interviews, translators, drivers, technicians, permits and other red tape.
In the past three weeks, the Islamic Republic has also invaded tens of thousands of Google’s Gmail accounts, according an announcement Thursday by the search engine company. Most of the data theft victims were Iranian or used Farsi in their emails, which were violated through phishing, which installs a virus into a user’s computer that records one’s Gmail user name and password when one clicks on a link in an email. The information is then sent to a server monitored by the Iranian government.