NCRI-US Staff, 30 May 2018
On Wednesday, May 30, 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department designated Hanista Programing Group pursuant to E.O. 13606. But what is the background to this and how significant this designation is?
On February 15, 2018, in a press conference in Washington, DC and in a report which was released in the conference, the National Council of Resistance of Iran-U.S. Representative Office (NCRI-US), discussed in details, how the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has developed not only hundreds of smartphone apps currently being used by the Iranian regime to spy on its own citizens, some of them are available to users around the world via online marketplaces like Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
In the conference and the report, the NCRI argued that some of the companies behind these copycat apps, like Hanista (the developer of Mobogram), are nothing more than “front companies” for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Use of the Telegram app was banned during those protests, and the NCRI report suggested Iranian regime’s cyber-spying efforts spiked shortly after. Thousands of people were arrested during the protest period, and some of them were presented with the option to leave the Telegram environment and enter the controlled environment of Mobogram before being released by authorities.
NCRI-US reported that Mobogram produced by Hanista (front company for IRGC) is available on App Store, and Telegram Black available on GooglePlay. Following the February 15, 2018 press conference by the NCRI in Washington, Google announced that it will investigate NCRI information, and a few days later, as reported by Fox News, Google removed Telegram Black from its market. However, Apple had not acted on Mobogram and the messaging app remained on the Appstore.
And finally, on Wednesday, May 30th, the Treasury Department designated Hanista Programing Group pursuant to E.O. 13606 for “having operated, or having directed the operation of, information and communications technology that facilitates computer or network disruption, monitoring, or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the Government of Iran.”
The Treasury Department also elaborated that “Hanista Programing Group developed two social media applications called Mobogram and MoboPlus and embedded malicious content in them that facilitates the monitoring and tracking of Iranian citizens. This monitoring and tracking functionality could assist or enable serious human rights abuses by the Government of Iran, including the IRGC and MOIS.”
And Mobogram was not accessible on May 30, 2018 on Appstore any more.