DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s top police chief envisions a new beat for his forces: patrolling cyberspace.
“There is no time to wait,” Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam said last week at the opening of a new police headquarters in the Shiite seminary city of Qom. “We will have cyber police all over Iran.”
The first web watchdog squads are planned in Tehran this month — another step in Iran’s rapidly expanding focus on the digital world as cyber warfare and online sleuthing take greater prominence with the Pentagon’s new Cyber Command and the secrets spilled to WikiLeaks.
For Iranian authorities, mastering the intricacies of the web is seen as critical on two fronts: an offensive weapon against political opposition and a defensive shield to thwart cyber-attacks such as the Stuxnet computer worm that Iran said was aimed at sabotaging its uranium enrichment program.
It’s part of what the Islamic Republic calls its “soft war” — which includes trying to curb Western cultural influences and gaining the upper hand in cyberspace against web-literate opposition groups.
But some experts question Iran’s capabilities in the constantly evolving Net. They say Iran is hampered by the lack of homegrown computer innovation and its struggle to find competent programmers and hackers willing to work for the state.