Iran shops for security networks at Gitex

Government officials from Tehran were looking for foolproof security to counter worms such as Stuxnet

Iranian government officials are at Gitex 2010 to shop for security systems to prevent the ever-growing cyber-attacks on their networks, the most recent being the highly complicated Stuxnet worm that attacked the systems installed at the Bushehr nuclear facility.

Stuxnet having affected an estimated 62,000 computers in Iran and spread havoc by penetrating Iran’s government and corporate networks, Tehran seems to be in no mood to lie low.

Iran’s Intelligence Minister Heider Moslehi had on Sunday said his country was under a well-coordinated cyber-attack unleashed by the United States and Israel.

Recent reports suggested that Sutxnet was designed to gun for the computer systems installed at Iran nuclear installations.

The virus had reportedly contaminated networks in India, Indonesia and Pakistan that run on similar software made by a European software developer.

Confirming the seriousness with which Iran is approaching the matter, Amol Sable, Senior Consultant, Secur View, a global IT Security Consultant, said: “We are getting many serious inquiries from the Iranian Ministry of Defence and other government controlled institutions for setting up a Security Operations Center (SOC) to protect the country’s sensitive IT Networks. Iranian computer networks are vulnerable to cyber-attack and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. Many of these Iranian networks don’t have the IT security system in place. We expect many good deals from Iranian clients.” Among the company’s clients is the US Pentagon where it set up a SOC.

Other IT security experts at Gitex 2010 said Iranian clients are desperately shopping for computer network safety solutions that can ward off, and even counter, hackers who have proliferated in recent times.

A leading network security solution provider revealed to Emirates 24|7 that it is in serious discussion with the Iranian Department of Defence to study their network vulnerabilities and to provide a more secure network. There are many international companies at the Gitex offering network security solutions.

Recently the Iranian Ministry of Defence website was under attacks from politically motivated hackers, suspected to be Israelis. “Important Iranian websites are subjected to severe DoS attacks and their home pages are even defaced. Defacing is hacking into a website and changing the home page content with insulting messages and images. It is very common to see Israeli hackers attacking Palestinian websites and vice versa,” sources at Gitex said.

“Stuxnet a highly sophisticated computer worm that spread through Iran, Indonesia and India was built to destroy operations at one target: possibly Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor. That's the emerging consensus of security experts who have examined the Stuxnet worm. Researchers studying the worm all agree that Stuxnet was built by a very sophisticated team of experts,” said an Iranian source quoting Government, a forum that regularly reports hacking.

Network security experts said they have seen a number of Iranian customers shopping for the latest network security solutions. “There seems to be a huge demand for network security solutions in Iran. We had customers from various Iranian government controlled entities and the Department of Defence for network security systems. They seem to be desperate because Iranian government websites and networks have been subjected to several attacks from across the border. We are negotiating with a number of Iranian customers to study their network vulnerabilities and to give them more protection. Professional hackers are targeting Iranian government websites and computer networks,” said Sable.

He said firewalls and other regular protection methods won’t work effectively if there are other vulnerabilities in the targeted network.

Recent media reports suggest that Israel is among the main suspects in the creation of the Stuxnet worm, due both to Israeli opposition to Iran's nuclear programme, and to the complexity of the attacker, which experts say could only have been created by a team with significant funding, resources and expertise.

For almost a decade from 1999 to 2009, Iran has encountered many professional hackers. With no comprehensive internet legislation or other barriers, many groups of young hackers have been operating at will and there were several attacks on sensitive government websites belonging to the army, the prosecutor general and the space agency.

Hacker groups like the Emperor and Iran Hackers Sabotage were commissioned to hack into government databases and networks and during elections even candidates websites are defaced.

Hackers have also caused havoc with the banking transactions in Iran. Reports suggest that the Iranian government has created a new Cyber Army, claimed to be one of the world’s largest to defend the country’s network.

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