Theresa Payton, White House Chief Information Officer for President George W. Bush, virtually attended an online conference, marking the first anniversary of the November 2019 uprising. The event hosted by the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) homaged the Iranian people’s sacrifices for a free and democratic Iran.
Hundreds of thousands of outrage protesters came into the streets, showing their complaint against the sudden rise of gasoline prices. However, the regime’s security forces responded to defenseless demonstrators with live ammunition, killing at least 1,500 protesters.
During a few days, the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other oppressive forces did whatever they could to stifle protests, according to the supreme leader Ali Khamenei‘s decree. They arbitrarily detained over 12,000 demonstrators, targeted protesters, and bystanders by heavy machineguns, snipers, and helicopters. However, they merely fueled the people’s wrath against the entire regime.
In her remarks at the NCRI virtual event, Theresa Payton expressed her solidarity with the Iranian people’s desire.
“Thank you for having me here today. I am honored to be a part of the agenda. First, I want to acknowledge the loss of life during the November 2019 Uprising where 1500 people were killed by the regime during the two days nationwide protests.
“I also pray for the release and extend my sympathy to the 12000 arrested in the protests who are languishing in prisons across the country under terrible conditions to include mental and physical torture.
“I pray and wish the people of Iran freedom, and for those people that are in Iran, I pray you may achieve a democratic republic based on a genuinely secure and free election. May you achieve gender equality and economic prosperity. May you have the freedom to worship according to your faith and space to work and live,” Theresa Payton began her remarks.
Afterward, she explained the Iranian regime’s cyber techniques to spread disinformation against the Iranian opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq, disrupting their reputation inside Iran and in the international community, and steal information from foreign institutions.
“I want to speak with you about the various Cyber Activities of the Iranian regime. In an increasingly interconnected world, where nearly all adults have access to robust devices in their pockets, the next frontier of your security isn’t physical—it’s digital.
“As I wrote about in my new book, Manipulated, Iran’s goal is to drive positive news about its current regime, often manipulating its own people to ensure undying support for the mullahs’ ideological and international political interests,” Theresa Payton said and listed:
- Although the government regime’s leadership uses social media, the Iranian regime has banned most social media, including Twitter and Facebook.
- The regime has allocated a large number of people to influence pages on the Internet. One example is Wikipedia. This is to spread false negative information about the opposition and positive communication in favor of the regime.
- The Iranian regime has also been engaged in creating fake accounts on Twitter and other social media outlets to spread disinformation about the opposition, particularly MEK.
- The current Iranian regime uses a mix of cyber intrusions, digital manipulation campaigns, and terrorist activities — or threat of such — as their key strategy for maintaining the regime’s operational status quo and to improve their standing on the world stage, and suppress their citizenry.
- Iran’s regime also hides behind cyber operatives and fake personas.
Then, she continued, “Let’s examine how they leverage the cyber domain to maintain control:
- According to CNN News, the “American Herald Tribune” lists itself as a “genuinely independent online media outlet.” An in-depth set of investigations by America’s Big Tech companies, including Google, Twitter, and Facebook, indicate the site is a mouthpiece for the regime in Iran.”
The cybersecurity expert also said, “The regime of Iran has paid unknowing American reporters to hide behind their credentials and make the operations appear legitimate.
“The American Herald Tribune stories criticize President Trump, Israel, and overall American foreign policy. But in particular, it has published numerous articles against the MEK using the regime’s talking point to tarnish the image of the opposition and organization,” Theresa Payton added and highlighted two prominent reports follow as:
- Additionally, we know from a New York Times report that Iranian Hackers hacked into Encrypted Apps. The evidence indicates the hackers used that access to gather intelligence.
- We also know that Iran is so emboldened, they are again meddling in the affairs of the U.S.
Theresa Payton also elaborated the structure of the Iranian regime’s cyber command, saying, “The U.S. National Security Agency and Cyber Command found Iranian hackers working for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. They posed as the far-right group Proud Boys and sent intimidating emails to American voters.
“In summary, Iran is known to block websites and social media networks, track citizens’ mobile connectivity, threaten and socially engineer reporters, meddle with access to Internet-based encrypted-messaging platforms, and restrict speeds or remove access to the Internet altogether.
“The regime scrambles to find ways to ensure they increase their influence over their citizens. That is why the Iranian people and protesters are becoming more creative and technical in using the Internet to get their voices heard globally,” she said.
Theresa Payton also highlighted the imperative of effective measures against the Iranian regime’s cyber threats. “This is our call to action:
For the Iranian people
- Learn and invest in knowledge and use of circumvention tools or proxies to use such as TOR, Psiphon, Orbit, and Tails. During extreme or complete blackouts peer to peer networks and devices such as Lantern and Firechat may be of assistance to those inside Iran.
- Practice safe surfing with anonymizers, VPNs, proxies and more.
Please take advantage of the free services available 24 hours a day at AccessNow.org they have a Digital Security Helpline. The world needs to come together and dedicate ourselves to a bold, new approach,” she said and bolded several steps, including:
We need a comprehensive strategy across countries and the private sector to enable the citizens of Iran to achieve a free Iran.
We need to ensure that the people of Iran can share, in real-time, threats that could have an impact on their anti-regime protests and call for democracy.
We must quickly evaluate the effectiveness of diplomatic measures, and set up a threat-hunting team that aggressively searches for malicious activity from the Iranian regime, especially those targeting the opposition.
We must act. We can’t allow excuses anymore. This is the crisis of our time. If a coalition of international policymakers, technology, and citizens act now, the overall future for the people of Iran, and the world, will take a more positive and different course,” Theresa Payton concluded.