Theresa Payton, Chief Information Officer of the White House (2006-2008), addressed at the 2nd Day of The Free Iran World Summit on July 12, 2021.
Thank you for having me here, Today. I am honored to be a part of your agenda. First of all, let me start off by saying I pray for freedom for the people of Iran. It is my sincerest hope that you may one day achieve a democratic republic, where gender equality thrives.
The regime has allocated a large number of people to influence pages on most spaces across the internet. The government masterfully leverages platforms such as Wikipedia, fake accounts on social media, and conducts sophisticated web based manipulation campaigns to suppress the people of Iran. Additionally, we also know from a New York Times report that Iranian hackers hacked into encrypted apps of Iranian citizens, media personalities, and journalists.
The evidence indicates the hackers use this access to gather intelligence across multiple people that are a part of the opposition. The Iranian government’s playbook is not only a danger for the people of Iran, but all democracies around the world. As Ars Technica reports, the US government recently saw 33 websites run by a branch of the Iranian government. These websites spread disinformation in the United States, leading up to and including during the 2020 presidential election.
As part of the seizure, the United States Department of Justice said those 33 sites were used by the Iranian Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU) and affiliated with the IRGCQF. The Atlantic Council reports that Iran operates an extremely vast and effective operation. And FRI, that found the complicated web of deception, all the way back into August 2018. The operations targeted various nations, and any Iranian that opposes the current government regime. The Atlantic Council published an inventory of known influences. This propaganda and manipulation campaign includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and more. They also reported that in 2011, that’s 10 years ago, the head of the IRIB claimed he had trained at that point a decade ago cyber battalions have over 8,400 people, including what he referred to as media experts and specialists.
Also, According to Amnesty International, the Iran regime has blocked independent reporting on COVID-19 and the handling of COVID 19 pandemic preparation, vaccination, and the emergency around illnesses and deaths. If the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance did not agree with the media report, they gave that news source a very stern warning. The checkpoint research organization has also confirmed findings that Iranian entities loosely affiliated with the Iran government have targeted Iranian expats and dissidents and many groups like the MEK. They found windows attacks that allowed operatives to steal documents and access telegram accounts. They also found an Android malware that extracted two factor authentication codes from SMS messages. They also found ongoing evidence of telegram social engineering. The tools and methods were mainly used against opposition and resistance movements. This is our call to action. The world needs to come together and dedicate ourselves to a bold new approach for freedom for the people of Iran.
Step one, we need a comprehensive strategy across all countries that work across governments and the private sector to enable the citizens of Iran to achieve a free and democratic republic of Iran. Step two, 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 their calls for democracy. Step three, we need to continue to provide financial backing, expert advice, traditional media, and social media influence campaigns to support freedom, honesty and transparency for the people of Iran. We must look at the effectiveness of our current diplomatic measures, set up perhaps an international technical threat hunting team that can look for malicious activity from the Iranian regime, aimed at its own people, the people of Iran, and Iranian expats, for the Iranian people.
Here’s what I recommend you do next, to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your freedom movement. Learn and invest in knowledge and use of privacy and anonymity tools. Make sure you are using only the best virtual private networks, encryption, different types of browsers such as the Tor Browser. If you see that there are extreme or complete blackouts of access to the internet, think about having in place peer to peer networks and devices, you can take a look at systems such as Lantern, and fire chat, they may be of assistance to those inside Iran. Make sure that you always practice safe surfing and when we do the overall future for the people of Iran and the world will take a more positive and different course.
Thank you for having me. I am honored to share these insights, advice, and ideas with you. To the people of Iran. I wish that you would be healthy, be safe, be well. Please follow my advice for safer, more private, and secure internet actions as you work on achieving a true free country.