Iran has boosted cyber spending twelvefold

Iran has boosted cyber spending twelvefold
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Iran’s cybersecurity budget has skyrocketed twelvefold under President Hassan Rouhani, according to a new report.

Rouhani came into office vowing to lessen Internet censorship in Iran while also planning to bolster the country’s cybersecurity capabilities.

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British technology research firm Small Media, which often focuses on Iran, released a report on Monday detailing Rouhani’s efforts in both categories since taking office.

While the Iranian leader has stood up to the country’s censorship body — notably refusing to ban secure messaging service WhatsApp — he has also exponentially grown the country’s cybersecurity budget.

When he took office in August 2013, Iran’s cybersecurity budget was $3.4 million. Tehran’s budget for the upcoming year earmarks $19.8 million for cybersecurity.

“There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but it raises the worry that vague security concerns will be cited to justify further restrictions on Internet freedom,” Small Media researcher Kyle Bowen wrote in a Monday blog post.

Iran’s dramatic rise has not gone unnoticed.

Security experts now describe the country as a top-five world cyber power. A late 2014 report revealed that Tehran has infiltrated the critical infrastructure networks in over a dozen countries worldwide, including in the U.S.

Tehran’s ramping up in cyber capabilities came after its nuclear centrifuge system was crippled by a cyberattack known as Stuxnet, thought to be the work of the U.S. and Israel.

While much of the world has focused on Iran’s quickly maturing offensive cyber capabilities, Small Media also noted Tehran can use its prowess to bolster surveillance of its own citizens.

Recent years have seen a number of arrests for individuals using software to get around government Internet restrictions.

As Tehran’s surveillance capabilities improve, “we can expect this crackdown to continue, and perhaps even accelerate,” Bowen wrote.