The Public Eye with Eric Chabrow

Iran Attacks U.S. 'Embassy' - Again

A Virtual Déjà Vu Experience

It was virtual déjà vu.

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The United States government this past week launched a virtual Iranian embassy and like the real one the U.S. had in Tehran 32 years ago, Iranians attacked it. Unlike the events of 1979, no hostages were seized. This time, however, the Iranian government blocked access to the virtual embassy from within its borders within a day of its launch.

That didn't sit well with the White House. President Obama issued a statement condemning the Iranian government's efforts to deny its people the freedom to access America's virtual embassy:

"Through this action, the Iranian government has once again demonstrated its commitment to build an electronic curtain of surveillance and censorship around its people. The Iranian government's systematic efforts to deny information to its citizens - to control what the Iranian people see and hear - is doomed to fail in a 21st century when technology is empowering citizens around the globe. ... The Iranian government should explain to its own people why it fears their ability to access the information that they choose."

Of course, the virtual embassy isn't a real diplomatic mission, but a public relations ploy by the U.S. government to promote America and its values directly to Iranian citizens. Still, the virtual blockade demonstrates how the physical and digital worlds are merging, and that both environments present specific challenges in defending turf, whether real or virtual. So, it's not surprising that some organizations contemplate combining physical and digital security.

And, we'll see more links between the physical and virtual as nations compete as friendly rivals or, as in this most recent case, as longtime foes. Last year, we saw this with Stuxnet, the computer worm that crippled centrifuges in Iran believed to be enriching uranium, perhaps in a quest to build a nuclear weapon. Many believe that either Israel or the United States - perhaps both working in cahoots - were behind the Stuxnet attack.

Stuxnet and the virtual blockade of a virtual embassy signify new ways nations will respond to perceived threats from their adversaries, requiring new offensive and defensive capabilities that aren't solely rooted in the physical or virtual worlds.

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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