Iranian citizens are soon to have their online access restricted to their very own Internet in what the government calls an attempt to improve national cyber-security, reports Reuters. Iran said it will tighten its online security following the 2010 Stuxnet incident which saw the computer worm tamper with one of the countryâ€™s uranium enrichment facilities.
“Control over the Internet should not be in the hands of one or two countries,” Communications and Technology Minister Reza Taqipour said in August, as quoted by Reuters. “Especially on major issues and during crises, one cannot trust this network at all.”
In a tv broadcast on Saturday, a government deputy minister said Googleâ€™s search engine and e-mail service would be blocked â€œwithin a few hours. Google and Gmail will be filtered throughout the country until further notice.”
The Iranian Studentsâ€™ News Agency (ISNA) suspects the restrictive measure is connected to the recent scandal over the release of a YouTube video considered highly offensive to Muslims. Others blame the ban on the use of Facebook and YouTube in protests against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad in 2009. In fact, Iran has a long-standing tradition of filtering online content it deems offensive, criminal or anti-establishment.
It appears that the Iranian authorities have been planning to create their own online enclave for a while, and government institutions have already taken the lead. “In recent days, all governmental agencies and offices … have been connected to the national information network,” said deputy communications and technology minister Ali Hakim-Javadi, as quoted by the Mehr news agency.
The full transfer of Iranian Internet users from one network to the other is expected by March 2013, but it is still unclear whether this would also imply setting up a full www blockade.