Thursday, March 22, 2012

BBC Persian under attack

On March 2nd, BBC Persian was subject to a sophisticated cyber attack on its London headquarters. The attack affected the BBC internal communication systems but did not disrupt on-air output. The corporation also recently suffered attempts to block BBC Persian phone lines in London as well as attempts to jam BBC services in Iran. Though it is near impossible to identify the source of the attacks, it is widely believed to be Iranian authorities, fearful of BBC Persian’s growing popularity. Viewing figures for the London-based channel have more than doubled in two years to six million.
These attacks are yet another example of the cyber dimension the conflict between Iran and the West is taking. Iran has not forgotten the Stuxnet attack launched in 2009 which spies on and subverts industrial systems. Such is the sophistication of Stuxnet, it is widely believed to have been the work of the US government. Though cyber warfare has the potential to incur catastrophic damage to a wide range of vital elements of a nation’s economy, it is largely non-lethal and for this feature alone it is surely an improvement on more conventional domains of warfare.
But the BBC is also on the butt end of a more traditional form of conflict: violent intimidation. The Guardian reports that one BBC Persian employees relative in Tehran was arrested and transferred to Evin prison while their belongings were confiscated. Iranian officials then contacted the BBC employee in London seeking information in return for their relative’s freedom. Other employees have been subject to smear campaigns, such as that directed towards Sadeq Saba, the head of BBC Persian, who was accused of raping Pooneh Ghoddoosi, presenter of popular Persian-language talk show Your Turn. The BBC has the resources and the political will to overcome such threats, though the bravery of individual employees to carry on must be recognised.

No comments: