By Mark Hodge
The Sun, 16th February 2018 - GOOGLE has launched a full investigation into claims Iran could be spying on Brits and Americans using "weaponized" apps.
The Sun Online exclusively revealed yesterday how the Iranian regime has created its own messaging apps which are available on the search giant's online store.
Mobogram is allegedly spyware enabled and is available to download on Google's online store and Apple's App store
According to an explosive report, the apps - also available from Apple's App store - are spyware-enabled to help Iranians hunt down anti-government protesters in the country.
A Google spokesman confirmed a probe has been launched.
He said: "We always take feedback from the community seriously and are currently investigating the situation. While we don’t comment on specific apps, our Google Play policies are designed to provide a great experience for users."
The most popular of these applications is called Mobogram, which is used by millions of Iranians and is available to download by westerners on Apple’s App Store.
The report by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a political group which opposes the Iranian regime, shows that Iranian expats are using Mobogram to communicate with their relatives in the troubled dictatorship.
Deputy Director of the council Alireza Jafarzadeh told The Sun Online that the Iranian regime has “weaponized smartphones” in its bid to thwart demonstrators in the country.
He said: “When you download these apps and start using them, they have the ability to gain access to your contacts, track your location and they can see the content of your communications.
File picture showing a student demonstrator raising her fist in Tehran
The regime is allegedly using the apps to crush the anti-government protesters who took to the streets in December and January.
An infographic explaining how the Iranian regime allegedly employs front companies to develop spyware-enabled messaging apps.
“They can find out who you are, your phone number, your address, because they gain access to information on your SIM card.
“Some of the apps have found their way into global marketplaces such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store.
“This means the Iranian regime could target the millions of Iranian expats living abroad who communicate with their relatives.”
Mr Jafarzadeh’s says that the council’s research has shown that the regime has used the spyware to “threaten, arrest, torture and kill people.”
In December and January, the Iranian regime was rocked by anti-government protests which erupted in over 100 town and cities across the Islamic Republic.
The Council’s research shows that the government has developed around 100 spyware enabled apps allegedly using tech companies which are a front for the evil regime.
The founder of Telegram Pavel Durov warned users not to download Mobogram
Apps such as Mobogram are “forked”, or copied, from popular messaging app Telegram and “were promoted heavily” by the state-sponsored firms, claims Mr Jafarzadeh.
Last year, the founder and CEO of Telegram Pavel Durov branded Mobogram "potentially insecure" and warned against using it.
He tweeted: "Mobogram is an outdated and potentially insecure fork of Telegram from Iran. I don't advise to use it."
The Iranian government executes more people, including women and children, per capita than any other country on Earth.
And Mr Jafarzadeh says the regime is “experimenting” with cyber warfare on its own people but could “apply these tactics” against western countries.
He said: “The regime has turned these applications into a spying weapon.
“They have weaponized these applications and as a result have actually weaponized smartphones in their favor.
“The Iranian regime is experimenting with cyberwar fare on its own population first – and once they have perfected that they could apply these tactics on countries outside of Iran.
“The regime feels very, very vulnerable to the uprising which is happening. They feel that the whole population is turning against them.”
The Sun Online has also approached Apple and Mobogram web developer Hanista for comment.