In an era defined by the growing prominence of the digital domain, Iran’s regime is rapidly expanding its cyber capabilities, emerging as a potent and multifaceted cyber threat on the global stage. Recent initiatives, including a statement by Mohammad Hosseini, Assistant of Parliament Affairs to regime president Ebrahim Raisi’s, to train half a million ‘cyber troops,’ underscore the regime’s increasing focus on cyberspace.

This escalating interest, combined with Iran’s track record of cyber activities, has raised concerns about the regime’s potential to exert influence, wage cyber warfare, and target not only political adversaries but also the personal data and digital lives of millions of Iranian citizens.

Simultaneously with the announcement regarding the Iran regime’s ambitious plan to ‘train 500,000 troops for the cyber domain,’ the regime’s parliament has greenlit another segment of the 7th Five-Year Plan. This segment mandates the ‘Ministry of Communications’ to engage in discussions on ‘perceived threats’ in collaboration with the ‘Ministry of Intelligence’ and the ‘Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Organization.’

In a televised interview, Hosseini emphasized the paramount importance of the virtual space and the national information network to the government. He expressed the regime’s intention to train 500,000 individuals to work in cyberspace.

The regime’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, underscored that a portion of these trained forces would also be employed in the digital economy sector, as both the virtual space and the digital economy hold significant importance for the regime’s strategic goals.

Raisi’s deputy alluded to the resolution passed by the regime’s parliament on September 23. In this resolution, Article 66 of the Seventh Program Bill received approval from the parliament after the Consolidation Commission’s endorsement.

According to this resolution, ‘The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, in cooperation with the Ministry of Cooperation, Labor and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, the Presidential Assistant for Science and Technology, and other relevant executive bodies, is tasked with training a minimum of 500,000 skilled and specialized human resources to work in the cyber domain, based on the strategic document of the regime in cyberspace.’

Furthermore, this resolution stipulates that some of the trained individuals for the virtual space will also contribute to the ‘National Program for the Development of Digital Skills of the Country.’

To realize the training of 500,000 individuals for the virtual space, these ministries must take steps to ‘establish new academic fields and courses and review the curricula of existing academic disciplines and skill courses at all levels.’ These changes should be approved by the cabinet within six months from the effective date of the seventh five-year plan.

It’s worth noting that while accurate statistics on the total number of cyber-trained and active forces in various institutions in the regime are not readily available, some officials and Basij and IRGC commanders have shared statistics in certain instances.

For example, Gholamreza Soleimani, the commander of the Basij organization, announced the formation of 2,500 district-based cyber battalions and 982 city-based cyber battalions within the Basij.

In October 2021, the commander of the Basij organization explicitly stated that the purpose of these ‘cyber battalions’ was to engage in cyber propaganda in support of the regime. He noted that ‘Basij and (regime) supporters are active and engaged in cyberspace through these cyber battalions.’

Moreover, on August 2, 2023, Mohammad Bagheri, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the regime, emphasized that ‘every Basij base should be active in the media and cyberspace.’ He highlighted the importance of Basij’s role in the field of soft war and virtual space, as these areas have already reached a wide audience.

Moreover, on Tuesday, October 24, the regime’s parliament approved ‘Clause A, Article 103’ of the 7th Five-Year Plan Bill, which explicitly obliges the Ministry of Communications to collaborate with the Ministry of Intelligence and the IRGC Intelligence Organization.

This article states that the ‘Ministry of Communications and Information Technology is mandated to coordinate and cooperate with the Ministry of Intelligence, IRGC Intelligence Organization,’ and the ‘Passive Defense Organization.’ This coordination involves the use of companies and institutions licensed or certified for secure auditing by the Information Technology Organization of Iran. Their purpose is to provide ‘security services and assess the cybersecurity of executive bodies.’

The resolution emphasizes that the Ministry of Communications must implement the ‘standards and regulations approved by the Permanent Committee of the Passive Defense of the country,’ as announced by the ‘Supreme Council of Cyberspace.’

Within Article 65 of the 7th Five-Year Plan Bill, the Ministry of Communications is tasked with rapidly completing the ‘National Information Network,’ the regime’s tightly monitored and controlled internet network that enhances its ability to spy on citizens and cut off access to vital services during protests.

This article stresses that the Ministry of Information should expand the national information network to encompass ‘80% of the administrative, commercial, and residential capacity’ of the country, utilizing investments from the private sector, cooperative sectors, and public institutions.

These actions by the regime in cyberspace encompass measures such as stringent internet filtering and the expansion of the national information network, with an aim to potentially ‘completely shut down the Internet,’ especially during periods of protests, as witnessed during 2022 when authorities attempted to restrict public access to the internet.

The parliamentary resolution and the statements of Raisi’s deputy regarding ‘training 500,000 troops’ for cyberspace represent a tangible effort to bolster the regime’s cyber capabilities in various domains, including psychological warfare, regime propaganda, cyber warfare, and participation in the digital economy. This becomes particularly concerning given the potential impact on the personal information and lifestyle of millions of Iranian citizens.

Source » irannewsupdate