As part of a campaign of crackdown against the press, Iran has reportedly started attacking news outlets using techniques more commonly associated with hacker collectives than with governments.
These techniques include distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), the method favored by hackers to disable websites.
The BBC said Thursday it was targeted in an Iran-based cyber-attack on March 1. Thought to be a DDoS attack, some parts of the BBC were unable to access their email or other internet services.
BBC Director General Mark Thompson said the internet attack "coincided with efforts to jam two of the service's satellite feeds into Iran."
The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Iran has often targeted BBC Persian-language news services in the past, jamming satellite signals and harassing BBC staff members and their relatives in Iran.
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Ironically, hacker collectives likes Anonymous have often used DDoS attacks to support the freedom of information, retaliating against websites like PayPal and Visa in defense of Wikileaks, for example. Now, Iran is using the same method but with the intent of stifling the press instead of freeing it.
Other news outlets have suggested, with little evidence, that Iran fields a “Cyber Army” in the Revolutionary Guard in 2010 with the intention of launching cyber-attacks against the United States.
Last month, in their “Enemies of the Internet” report, Reporters Without Borders noted that Iranian authorities had devised techniques for blocking ports used by VPNs, a tool that would enable Iranian internet users to bypass government web filtering.