June 3, 2011 at 5:58 PM ET
Members of the hacking group Anonymous say they've managed to infiltrate an Iranian government mail server and copy more than 10,000 internal emails and a series of images.
"The documents are from Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' mail server which we took control over," said a member of the group who called himself Arash. He said he was the founder of Anonymous' effort to hack Iranian government computers, which began in 2009 after Iran's disputed presidential election and corresponding government efforts to suppress Internet freedom.
The documents, now freely available on Web sites, involve applications by foreigners for visas to enter the country. They are mostly mundane — applicants complaining about red tape, for example — though Arash said some of the disclosed items are potentially newsworthy.
"I saw some that were interesting, like a peace (organization) begging for a visa for its members to join a conference," he said.
The main goal of the ongoing attack, however, is to embarrass the current government, said Arash, who identified himself as an Iranian now living outside the country and requested anonymity.
"We organized this to damage (the) Islamic regime's cyber image near the election's anniversary," he said to msnbc.com in an email. "(The) documents prove that while (the) Islamic regime keeps investing in its cyber army and expensive hardware for filtering and analyzing the Iranian people's traffic, they can’t secure their most important mail servers."
Anonymous is a loosely connected group of hackers who have taken on celebrated causes, notably taking sides in the WikiLeaks controversy earlier this year when it launched denial-of-service attacks against companies like Visa and MasterCard for disrupting donations to Bradley Manning, the accused document leaker at the center of the controversy.
But Anonymous takes on many causes; it announced stepped-up efforts to attack Iran in February when the government there announced it had created a new cyber police unit. The announcement video was detailed on msnbc.com.
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