NCRI - The Iranian regime is to make the sale, purchase and use of VPN software - which disguises the physical location of Internet users - illegal throughout Iran.

The draconian clampdown of free use of the Internet was announced by Iran's cyber police chief Brigadier General Kamal Hadianfar on Monday.

Iranians use VPN software to bypass the regime's censorship of millions of websites and internet services.

But Handianfar said legislation to ban the software was now under review in the Judicial and Legal Committee of Majlis (Parliament).

He warned Internet users that use of a VPN makes all their information available to the companies that own the VPN servers, and added: "Criminals' use of VPN has made the cost of finding the criminals higher and has increased the risk for those using it."

A 2013 study found that almost half of the world's top 500 most-visited websites - including those related to health, science, sports, news, and even shopping - are blocked in Iran. The regime is also one of three countries in the world to block Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

The regime's cyber-police have been arresting those selling VPN software, and last year the Secretary of the Supreme Council for Cyberspace described 'bypassing filtering software to access social networks on the Internet' as a crime.

Three bodies are responsible for carrying out the policy of cyber repression inside Iran: the Supreme Council for Cyberspace, the Organized Crime Surveillance Centre and the Revolutionary Guards.

The Supreme Council for Cyber-Space was formed in March 2012 on the orders of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The council includes senior military and political leaders including the speaker of Majlis, the head of the judiciary, the minister of Culture, the minister of Intelligence and Security, the commander of the IRGC, and the attorney general.

The policies and decisions of the Supreme Council for Cyberspace are applied and carried out by the Working Group for Identifying Criminal Content. The group created in 2008 has 13 members. Since it was created, it has ordered the closure of hundreds of news sites.

The IRGC controls the Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) the regime's main Internet service provider, and is also responsible for ordering the blocking of websites.

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