Iran responds to Stuxnet by expanding cyberwar militia

13-million-person paramilitary will include increasing effort at cracking


The search for the source of in the Stuxnet worm attack that appears to have been aimed at Iran's nuclear development projects is no closer to a conclusion than it was in October, though the list of A-list culprits has expanded to include China.

Faced with damage to both its nuclear facilities and bomb attacks on leading nuclear scientists and continuing international opposition to its nuclear ambitions, Iran has responded by creating a cyberwarfare militia.

In a Nov. 29 article, the Iran newspaper (it's in Persian, so I'm taking Forbes' word for it) mapped out the government's desire to recruit 1.5 million more young Iranians for the national militia, many of whom would be recruited specifically for cyberwarfare.

The cyberwar group would be part of Basij (short for "Mobilization of the Oppressed) a volunteer group created in 1979 by the Ayatollah Khomeini and not totals as many as 13 million young Iranians who join out of patriotism or in exchange for official benefits.

The paramilitary group is subordinate to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards that form the core of Iran's military, but operate in a much less official capacity.

Both Basij and the IRG have been involved in cyberwar in the past, presenting it as another way to defend Iran against vastly more powerful Western forces.


According to a May 21 article in the English-language version of the nationalist People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, Basij had set up an investigative and cyberwar wing to strike back:

"On November 26, 2008, the state-run Fars news agency published an interview with Hamid-Reza Khaksar, Head of Bassij Public Relations. Khaksar referred to the Bassij Force’s cyber activities, saying, “Today, the enemy has infiltrated our cyber borders which encompass the internet, TV, and other media. The most suitable people for defending these borders are the Bassij forces.” He added, “There have either been no intelligence and operational bases established in these cyber borders or they have been set up late. That is why the enemy can currently do whatever it wants.”


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