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Amid Regime Crackdown, Google Reveals Thousands of Hacking Attacks Against Iranian Citizens

Google has uncovered what the company calls thousands of “politically motivated” hacking attacks targeting the email accounts of Iranian users. The list of potential suspects is not extensive:

“For almost three weeks, we have detected and disrupted multiple email-based phishing campaigns aimed at compromising the accounts owned by tens of thousands of Iranian users,” he said. “The timing and targeting of the campaigns suggest that the attacks are politically motivated in connection with the Iranian presidential election on Friday.”

The Iranian regime has been engaged in a wide-ranging crackdown on citizens’ digital privacy and Internet access, and more generally on avenues for dissent, as the country approaches what analysts have described as “the least democratic election” since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Iran’s powerful Guardian Council purged an initial list of some 680 presidential applicants to just eight candidates. Two of the candidates – including the most relatively moderate remaining contender – subseqently since dropped out. The remaining candidates are considered hardliners loyal to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who in any case also directly sets the country’s posture on key foreign policy issues including nuclear talks.

Iranian officials have long been explicit that the election results will not alter the country’s posture toward its nuclear program, regardless of which candidate wins. The point was reiterated this week by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.