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EghtesadOnline: A cybersecurity project codenamed Digital Fortress (Dejfa in Persian) was unveiled by the Iranian ICT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi on Saturday to shield the country from increasing cyber threats targeting Iran’s infrastructure and online businesses.

The project was unveiled by Jahromi during an event held in Tehran on the occasion of Telecommunications and Information Society Day commemorated globally on Friday.

The Digital Fortress aims to protect citizens’ privacy, deter cyberattacks on infrastructure, help sustain digital services, combat data breaches and online fraud, as well as detect malware in the network and stop its spread.

Iran IT Organization Chief Amir Nazemi explained that Digital Fortress will also help Iran prevent denial-of-service strikes and protect the country’s industrial infrastructure against cyber espionage and sabotage attacks, Financial Tribune reported.

Jahromi said, “The Digital Fortress has been developed with an investment of 200 billion rials ($1.4 million) and includes 10 subprojects. The operational costs of the system will amount to 300 billion rials ($2.1 million).”

He added that with the noteworthy growth in Iran’s digital economy, the number of cyber threats has also increased.

Noting that as more and more people rely on online services with every passing day, the minister said, “Disruptions in e-banking or services offered by ride-hailing companies or other Internet-based firms, in addition to upsetting people’s lives, will certainly take a toll on the economy.”


National Information Network

According to the minister, seven other subprojects of the Digital Fortress will become operational in the coming months. 

“This is a major step toward enhancing the cybersecurity of Iran’s National Information Network,” he said.

The National Information Network is an independent domestic network enabling Iranians to communicate without relying on international Internet hubs. The national scheme comprises several projects, including but not limited to the development of the local fiber-optic network, installation of Internet Exchange Points and expansion of content delivery networks.

There have been rumors that in the face of Washington’s animosity toward Tehran, international communication service providers may suspend their ties with Iran, which can disrupt Internet services in the country.

While government authorities have tried to reassure people that such an incident is not probable, the ICT Ministry has conducted tests to check whether Iran’s National Information Network can operate independently.

“All the 142 tests carried out by the ministry yielded positive results. If Iran gets disconnected from the World Wide Web, the National Information Network can operate independently,” Jahromi said.

Theoretically, local banks and businesses will be able to sustain their operations at least for a limited period of time through the domestic network.


New Firewall

Earlier on Thursday in an Instagram post, Jahromi wrote, “Backed by Iran IT Organization, young academicians have developed a firewall that can protect the country’s industrial infrastructure against cyberattacks like Stuxnet.”

The firewall is one of the subprojects of the Digital Fortress.

The minister then noted that the cybersecurity tool can be employed for protecting the country’s key infrastructure, such as power distribution network. 

“The firewall has been successfully tested. After securing the approval of the High Council of Cyberspace, the firewall will be deployed to protect Iran’s key industrial infrastructure,” he said.

First detected in 2010, Stuxnet is believed to be the joint work of the US and Israel, a claim that whistleblower Edward Snowden confirmed in a 2013 interview but which has never been acknowledged by either government.


Telecom Boom

During the gathering in Tehran, the minister noted that following a push from the government and with help from Iranian Telecommunications Industries Syndicate and local producers, the country’s reliance on imported devices required for sustaining and expanding the communication infrastructure has been curbed significantly.

Jahromi noted that while most Iranian businesses are posting a decline in revenues, “the key telecom sector has recorded growth”.

He further announced that 7,200 Iranian villages have been connected to the Internet through broadband mobile services over the past few days.

“With a 4-trillion-rial ($27.5 million) government investment, 7,200 Iranian villages have been connected to the Internet and broadband mobile services are now available in these areas,” he added.

As per the Sixth Five-Year Development Plan (2017-22), at least 90% of Iranian rural areas with over 20 households must be connected to the World Wide Web.


Open Data

Helping Iran’s digital economy provide startups access to public records and data held by the government is high on President Hassan Rouhani’s agenda.

Jahromi says that in line with the government’s policy, startups are to get access to data collected by his ministry and its affiliated organizations, including the IT Organization and Iranian Space Agency. 

“For instance, the Iranian Space Agency has prepared vast sets of data that will be shared with all local startups and knowledge-based companies,” Jahromi promised.

The minister explained that over the past year, close to 100 startups were established in Iran, which process data gathered through satellite imagery. Such data can be employed for devising smart water and crop management systems to benefit farmers.

“Sharing the data cultivated by ISA can give a boost to these fledgling firms,” he said. 

A smart user identification system based on digital information gathered by government and telecom operators are to be rolled out as part of the project.


Iran cyber threats cybersecurity Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi online businesses Infrastructure Digital Fortress Dejfa