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30 spies dead after Iran cracked CIA comms network with, er, Google search – new claim

Published: November 3, 2018
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Iran apparently infiltrated the communications network of CIA agents who allowed their secret websites, used to exchange messages with informants, to be crawled by Google.

A report from Yahoo! news claims that a 2009 breach of the US spy bods' communications channels came after the Iranian government infiltrated a series of websites the CIA had used to talk to its local sources in places like Iran and China.

“We’re still dealing with the fallout,” said one former national security official. “Dozens of people around the world were killed because of this.”

Web scraping is a two-edged sword

The communications leak was believed to have stemmed from a simple Google search. Suspecting the US had agents and sources within its nuclear program, Iran began to hunt for the mole. After a double agent showed Iran's government one of the sites, they were then able to use Google to identify other sites the intel agency was using and began to intercept communications.

"Because Google is continuously scraping the internet for information about all the world’s websites, it can function as a tremendous investigative tool — even for counter-espionage purposes," the report claims.

"And Google’s search functions allow users to employ advanced operators — like 'AND', 'OR', and other, much more sophisticated ones — that weed out and isolate websites and online data with extreme specificity." As a result Iran announced the intelligence coup and arrested many operatives. Some were executed, although other managed to escape.

Once Iran was able to track down the sites their techniques were given to other friendly countries, who in turn used the information to weed out the CIA's communications channel in their own territories as well.

“Iran was aggressively going out to hunt systems down,” a former intelligence official said. “They weren’t just protecting themselves anymore.”

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