Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cyberwar Still Rages to Halt Protester Identification

We have blurred the image to prevent identification.

A high-stakes, cyberwar is still raging to prevent webpages full of photos from being used to identify, imprison and likely abuse or torture Iranian street protesters. One website, has in the last 24 hours posted 70 new photos of the protesters, with identifiable faces ringed by red circles. Currently it is the main target in the cyberwar.

The battle has been ongoing since these photos first appeared on a number of websites, with 'hack-tivists' scoring major successes and bringing down key sites in the last two weeks. But it's an online war which has ebbed and flowed, as defensive measures were deployed by the target websites.

The website redirected it's domain IP pointers from its servers in Canada to new ones in Germany, and at time of writing its protester ID page is still online. Another site, has been forced offline. Website removed it's protester identification page to escape the ire of the politically-motivated hackers.

At least one website, was suspended by its internet domain hosting service. After an approach by an activist, Jottie Tolatzis on behalf of LeaseWeb confirmed that the company would take the website offline.

Some of those participating in the cyberwar range are amateurs who simply repeatedly load the target pages to slow them down on the internet. Others are experienced hackers deploying sophisticated denial-of-service tactics and software to take entire websites offline.

One of the most prominent internet locations where activists coordinate their cyberwar campaign is Anonymous Iran, where a list of the webpages which contain protester photos has been posted. The 'Help Iran Online' section of the site has many discussion threads tracking the progress of attempts to block the target websites.

The outcome of the cyberwar has serious implications for the protesters seen in the photos. If they are identified and incarcerated their fate is dire. Amnesty International has repeatedly expressed concern that detainees face torture or other ill-treatment in Iran. Credible accounts say that rape of prisoners is taking place.

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