Iranian information minister: National internet to cut off all government computers from the World Wide Web

In an interview with Mehr News Agency, information minister Reza Taghipour told reporters that the country’s “national information network” project, which was slated for completion by the end of September, will come online next week.

Seeking to lessen the threats of cyber attack and “soft war” (the regime’s terminology for the battle between itself and the West for the hearts and minds of the Iranian people), the Islamic Republic pledged to create a “clean” or “national” internet (essentially an “intranet”) disconnected from the World Wide Web two years ago.

This pledge now appears to have become a reality in the form of the national information network project. According to Taghipour, phase one of this project will separate all government information networks from the World Wide Web:

“Currently, the separation of the World Wide Web from the national information network for government agencies has taken place for 29 provinces… This project will be operationalized in a ceremony next week in the whole country and in all provincial centers, meaning 31 provinces… Based on this [project], the connection of 42,000 government machines will be transferred from the World Wide Web to the national information network.”

However, Taghipour noted that the national information network will not be available to the general population for some time and warned the public about fraudulent companies purporting to sell access to the national information network.

Editor’s note: While the regime had publicly discussed the separation of Iran’s information networks from the World Wide Web for some time, it was unclear until recently how or when this project would be carried out. The contours of the plan are now much more apparent.

As noted above, the regime had identified at least two main threats posed by open access by Iranians to the World Wide Web: Cyber attack and soft war. Phase one, which uniquely affects government machines, appears to be targeted toward “hard power” cyber attacks, such as Flame, Stuxnet, and Duqu which are believed to have damaged Iranian crude oil and nuclear facilities.

As phase one comes online, we will get a much better idea of how functional the Iranian government’s national information network really is. If successful, it could set the stage for later phases which cut off the Iranian population as a whole from the World Wide Web, partially allaying fears the regime has about Western “soft power” influencing its people.