Surviving Cybersecurity and Surveillance: A Dual Strategy for Iran’s National Security

The Iranian government’s existing surveillance capabilities are currently primarily focused on monitoring civilians, including political activists and opposition groups. While Iranian officials acknowledge the importance of cyber tools and AI in foreign policy, they are acutely aware of the country’s financial and scientific limitations.

Discussions and debates surrounding the use and importance of cyberspace and artificial intelligence in Iran primarily revolve around the following points: Two important perspectives: View them as essential elements of national security strategy and understand cyber capabilities and AI as essential tools to protect national the context of Tehranis widely advertised forward defense doctrine, it is reasonable to expect that Iran will develop (AI-assisted) offensive cyber capabilities that will allow it to penetrate adversary systems and perform pre-emptive action against perceived threats. The key prerequisites for doing so are: Robust monitoring capabilities This allows authorities to alert you to potential attacks. However, available evidence suggests that Iran in particular severely lacks such capabilities.Critical infrastructure in the United States has been targeted by cyber attacks allegedly originating from Israel.

Of particular note is that Tehran’s existing surveillance capabilities are currently primarily focused on monitoring civilians, including political activists and opposition groups. This is evident from a series of recent leaks. Documented by Intel471shed light on the governmentIranian Surveillance Tactics and Iranian ScopeIranian security authorities are forced to engage in both the development and deployment of special tools and malicious software to monitor individuals inside and outside Iran. As an example, Abi, a surveillance system that monitors political activists, dissidents, and protesters by intercepting Bluetooth communications. Loons are placed in pickup trucks around university campuses and protest hotspots and represent a pervasive form of surveillance used to suppress dissent and opposition to the regime. Similarly, WinspySuite This demonstrates the administration’s efforts to extract sensitive information from citizens’ devices. In addition to targeting individuals, the malware also infiltrates social media platforms and messaging apps, demonstrating a comprehensive effort to monitor online activities and communications.

Targeting these features presents an interesting puzzle. The Iranian government’s isolated focus on domestic surveillance is indicative of an incoherence in its overall national security architecture and, at least so far, an inability to replicate forward defense principles in its cybersecurity strategy. Not yet. This is not to suggest that there is no offensive cyber capability. documented and analyzed. However, it appears that they have spent much effort and resources developing surveillance capabilities suitable for domestic use, thereby depriving them of their ability to proactively detect and thwart cyberthreats from external actors.

Broadly speaking, Iran’s national security strategy is based on two fundamental pillars. The first pillar is to take advantage of our geographical advantage and build offensive power centered on our key players. medium-range missile You can attack both nearby and distant targets. Second, it depends on whether or not we build the following deterrence posture. to support An ideologically aligned group hostile to the interests of the United States and its neighbor Israel. This latter aspect is consistent with Tehran’s objective of exerting influence rather than seeking complete control over the affairs of its neighbors.

These proxy groups serve multiple purposes for Iran. They provide information on enemy movements, interfere with enemy interests when deemed necessary, and influence the political direction of neighboring countries. By giving these groups influence in regional politics, Iran ensures that its neighbors strengthen its strategic interests or at least refrain from policies that directly contradict those interests. The Iranian regime also reduces the risk of this type of attack by outsourcing military operations to non-Iranian actors. Domestic backlash Generally associated with military casualties.

In stark contrast to the regional approach, the administration’s domestic policy is to: common authoritarian patternsthat is, maintaining complete control over all aspects of public life. Iranian authorities are aware that their resources are limited, themselves a direct result of foreign policy priorities and the subsequent Western-led sanctions regime, and are primarily focused on cyberspace and AI. recognized as a tool of domestic manipulation and surveillance. This approach legally established Late last year, Iran’s parliament enacted a law requiring Iran’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology to share all user data and information with security forces unconditionally.

In other words, while those involved acknowledge that significance They are acutely aware that the country’s financial and scientific limitations severely limit its full use of cyber tools and AI for foreign policy purposes. Therefore, cyberspace and AI mostly seen as a means of strengthening government power; story[1] [2] , shape public perception and help governments maintain absolute control over society. For example, recently broadcasted Deepfake interview with Portuguese soccer sensation Cristiano Ronaldo signing player $200 million annual contract They discussed their own economic challenges as Iranians struggle to manage their household finances and in an apparent attempt to normalize the ongoing devaluation of the Iranian riyal.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, investing in covert surveillance capabilities targeting Iranian citizens would have more impact. A discreet and therefore effective method To exert influence and maintain power in society. In addition to this, domestic surveillance software and systems could be exported as a lucrative source of revenue for the government. For example, it has recently become clear that ice pieis an Iranian-made VPN laden with malware that allows the regime to monitor online searches and conversations, making it an attractive option for dictatorships with limited budgets. Cut off from global supply chains, Iran is forced to cultivate domestic technological infrastructure to meet security and commercial demands. Coupled with the factors of a weak currency, low labor and production costs, relaxed export policies, and a willingness to leverage expertise for economic gain and influence, Tehran now faces more economical alternatives. As such, it is in a good position to promote its own technology. Western counterpart.

Last but not least, double benefits Surveillance technology could be developed for domestic purposes and then reused for deployment to Iran.enemy systems and networks. Developing advanced offensive capabilities risks attracting international scrutiny, further sanctions, and could heighten the threat perception of Tehran’s neighbors. This results in The ongoing cyber arms race in the region By encouraging neighboring countries to allocate significant resources to countering Iran’s perceived capabilities. Given these competing priorities and resource constraints, the administration has shifted its investment in domestic surveillance to more cost-effective, control and influence options while continuing to rely on foreign intelligence and influence proxies. They see it as an immediate means to maintain power.

Overall, Iran’s approach to cybersecurity and artificial intelligence reflects the complex dynamics at the intersection of national security strategy, domestic controls, and resource constraints. Although the country’s forward defense doctrine suggests that Iran may prioritize robust offensive cyber capabilities, the reality of limited resources and widespread public dissatisfaction suggests that Iranian officials primarily They view cyber tools as a cost-effective and discrete means of further tightening their already tight control. society. This focus on surveillance that primarily targets political dissidents highlights the regime’s authoritarian tendencies and reliance on technological innovations aimed solely at regime/internal security.

But the possibility of re-equipping some of its surveillance technology to serve both domestic control and potential foreign policy purposes is something that Iran’s decade-long struggle against Western sanctions has forced to think about and act on. It should be noted that this emphasizes the high degree of realism of the strategists. Be innovative. A deeper understanding of the development and use of cyberspace and AI in Iran therefore needs to reflect not only its strategic imperatives, but also the regime’s broader authoritarian challenges and constraints it faces in the international arena.

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