What are the threats in cyberspace?
Online threats fall into two categories:
- The first group is threats that affect your activities. If your system's security is at risk, your data and information will be damaged or fall into the wrong hands, and the information sent/received by you and websites that you visit will be interfered with.
- The second group is threats that harm you personally. If you're not careful, you might reveal your identity, location, or other personal information, which could seriously compromise your security.
These threats are often, but not always, linked. It is possible, for instance, for the government to interfere with your computer's functioning without discovering your identity. However, it is better to assume that if your work is at risk, then your personal safety will also be at risk.
You may not be the main target of a threat, but it’s possible that the attackers may approach or attack the main target (e.g. your friends or colleagues) through you. On the other hand, you might lose control of your user ID, or your user ID may be totally destroyed as a result of the attack. Network attackers may identify people with whom you communicate or obtain their address and contact information by hacking into your account.
How do they work?
While there are a wide variety of tools and techniques used to attack activists and journalists online, some are more common than others. By the end of this lesson, you’ll have been introduced to three common types of such methods: phishing, malware, and man-in-the-middle attacks.
Social networks represent another aspect of these threats, stemming from the lack of safety awareness by the people you're communicating with. These cases will be addressed in Lessons Four and Five.
This lesson focuses on specific threats that Iranian journalists and online activists face. In order to fully understand why awareness of these threats is important, you should know the many ways in which the Iranian government uses Internet filtering, surveillance, and legal restrictions online.
We recommend the following links, before continuing onward:
- Computer Crime in Iran - Risky Online Behavior (Article 19) (Persian)
- Freedom on the Net - Freedom House Report 2014 (English)
- Enemies of the Internet - Iran: Cyberspace ayatollahs (Reporters Without Borders) (English)
- Enemies of the Internet - Iran: The Revolutionary Guards, the Supreme Council for Cyberspace and the Working Group for Identifying Criminal Content (Reporters Without Borders) (Persian)