As protests against the government murder of Mahsa Amini continue, Iranians facing police brutality on the streets and connectivity issues with the World Wide Web, have began to express hope in what Anonymous hacktivist group has called “Op Iran”. The collective group, who is widely known for their cyber attacks against major governmental institutions and corporations, vowed their support of the Iranian people in a video shared online on September 20th, launching what they call, “#OpIran”. In a video shared by the group, an altered voice says, “This was the last straw. The people are mobilized and the streets are filled with cries of freedom and the shouts of brave people. The Iranian people are not alone.”
So far, the group has claimed responsibility for temporarily hacking a number of state-run websites including the main government information portal (dolat.ir), the Iranian presidential website (president.ir), Iran’s central bank and the forensic medical research center of Iran. Amongst the list of hacked sites shared by the collective is the website of the IRGC’s state media, Fars News Agency, a highly important platform known for supporting and spreading state propaganda. In 2016, Fars News Agency pledged money toward the bounty against Salman Rushdie in connection to the Satanic Verses controversy.
In addition to state-run websites, the collective has also claimed to have hacked over 1,000 CCTV cameras across the country, and most recently, has released a database containing a list of phone numbers and other data supposedly belonging to Iranian MPs.
The ongoing operation comes amidst the government’s recent restrictions on two of the most widely used platforms in Iran, Instagram and WhatsApp. According to an update shared by NetBlocks on September 21st, “Iran is now subject to the most severe internet restrictions since the 2019 massacre”, with mobile networks in Iran have largely shutdown. Reports from people within the country indicate that while there is some home internet access, speeds have decreased significantly, making it challenging for Iranians to stay connected.
The hashtag #OpIran has gained nearly 49 million tweets since Anonymous declared its operation. Many Iranians in the Twitter sphere have thanked Anonymous and have called for a continuation of the operation, requesting the contact lists for police officers and morality police officers and the hacking of more state-run broadcasting networks. Since the mobile network shutdown that began on September 21st, many Iranians have expressed concern over their livelihood, many sharing “they are killing us”. In the November 2019 protests, Iran’s global internet access was cut off for nearly 12 days.