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Tue Dec 20, 2011 3:30pm EST
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran has moved most of its government websites from foreign-based hosting companies to new computer facilities inside the country, to protect them against cyber attacks, a senior official said on Tuesday.
The new security arrangements were announced a year after a Iran said a powerful computer virus known as Stuxnet attacked computers at its Bushehr nuclear reactor.
"The location of the hosts of more than 90 percent of Iran's governmental internet sites has been transferred inside the country," Ali Hakim Javadi, Iran's deputy minister for communications and information technology, told the official IRNA news agency.
"This was a vital move for protecting governmental information."
Javadi said more than 30,000 Iranian websites belonging to ministries and other government bodies had until recently been hosted by companies in North America and other countries.
"The data could have been exposed to constant danger at any moment," he said.
A computer expert who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said the measure would have only limited impact.
"It can't be a very effective measure since the sites can be hacked from any corner of the world. However, it can restrict physical accessibility to the computers that store the data."
Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor was hit by "cyber-weapon" Stuxnet in what Tehran said was an attack by Israel and the United States.
Western leaders suspect Iran's nuclear program is a disguised effort to develop nuclear bombs, while Tehran maintains it is designed to produce electricity.
The existence of Stuxnet became public knowledge around the time that Iran began loading fuel into Bushehr, its first nuclear reactor, last August.
Iran downplayed the impact of the virus and said in September that staff computers at Bushehr had been hit but that the plant itself was unharmed.
Bushehr have missed several start-up deadlines. This has prompted speculation that Stuxnet damaged the plant, something Iran denies.
Iranian officials have said the virus could have posed a major risk had it not been discovered and dealt with before any major damage was done.
(Writing by Ramin Mostafavi; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)
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