Iran is preparing to move its citizens to a domestic Internet network in what the government claims is an attempt to rebuff cyber security threats. Officials also confirmed a block on Google and Google products such as Gmail, Reuters reported.
Speaking on Sunday, a deputy minister identified as Khoramabadi, his last name, said Google would be inaccessible “within a few hours.”
"Google and Gmail will be filtered throughout the country until further notice," he said.
Iran has long operated a strict and expansive filtering of the Internet, preventing people from accessing popular sites like Facebook and YouTube. While the government claims it is protecting citizens from offensive content, many believe the restrictions are simply an effort to suppress free speech following mass protests in 2009 that were believed to be organised through social media.
The plan for an internal Internet system independent of the World Wide Web is not a new idea - it has been believed for months that an Iranian Intranet system could be in the works. In August, the country’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology Reza Taqipour confirmed that Iran planned to introduce its own domestic network because the “Internet should not be in the hands of one or two specific countries.”
"The establishment of the national intelligence network will create a situation where the precious intelligence of the country won't be accessible to these powers," Iran’s FARS news agency quoted Taqipour as saying, likely in reference to a series of cyber attacks, including last year’s Stuxnet worm and this summer’s Flame virus, both of which targeted Iranian computers.
Government computers have already been connected to the "national information network", with a full rollout to ordinary citizens expected to be completed by March 2013. There’s no word yet on whether this the country will then be completely cut off from the World Wide Web.