Distributed denial of service attacks (or DDoS) aim to make a website unavailable, and are typically used when the attacker is trying to prevent dissemination of information released on a website.
While DDoS attacks are not one of the tactics most frequently used, they are prominent during politically sensitive times, such as during elections. Over the past four years, the majority of DDoS attacks have targeted the websites of government critics and dissidents inside and outside the country.
The February 2016 Parliamentary elections in Iran were the first during Rouhani’s presidency in which there was no state-engineered disruption in the country’s internet service, but the websites of supporters of reformist and centrist government candidates faced multiple DDoS attacks. During these elections, two websites,
the reformist Gaam-e Dovvom and the website of centrist former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, received the worst of the DDoS attacks, which led to their breakdown.
During the presidential election of May 2017, after former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who has fallen deeply out of favor with the supreme leader and other authorities in Iran) was disqualified to run as a candidate by hardline vetting bodies, Ahmadinejad’s website was brought down by a DDoS attack, demonstrating that the political proclivities of the victim is not as important as the state of their relationship with the authorities.