Iranian officials are shunning certain communications technology in a bid to frustrate hackers seeking state secrets. Authorities with access to classified information will soon be banned from using smartphones, a senior Iranian official told reporters Saturday.
Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali, who runs the Iranian military's anti-sabotage unit, said the ban's instructions have already been drafted and are awaiting ratification, the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency said in an article cited by the Associated Press.
Jalali said the primary threat to Iranian security in this area is that Western handset manufacturers could have access to data stored on the smartphone. Iran believes it has been the target of an international cyberwar since at least 2010, when hackers deployed the Stuxnet virus to disrupt the controls of some of Iran's nuclear centrifuges, AP said.
The crackdown on mobile devices came just days after news that Israel may have employed a new virus to spy on the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers. Hackers reportedly used malicious software called Duqu in the past 18 months to target three European luxury hotels where diplomats from China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. stayed during negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program.
If the negotiators finalize an agreement, the U.S. and others could ease economic sanctions on Iran -- a move Israel staunchly opposes.
A version of the Duqu virus was used to hack the Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab last week, the firm said. Both malware strains are variants of the earlier Stuxnet virus, which observers have said they believe was the product of U.S. and Israeli experts.
U.S. officials told CNN Thursday that the Obama administration does not doubt reports accusing Israel of using Duqu to spy on the Iranian nuclear talks. But the administration doesn't believe there has been any data breach.
"They do it all the time," an unnamed official told CNN, in a reference to Israel. "They did it last year, and they did it again this year. This doesn't come as any great surprise to anyone."
Israeli officials said in February they had intelligence about the negotiations among diplomats on the developing Iran deal, although authorities did not admit to spying on the talks.