US Cyber Attack On Iran

Mistrust and hostilities between Iran and the US are increasing with the attacks on drones, shipping and cyber hacking and the countries are certainly getting closer to outright war. Tensions between Iran and the US have increased since the United States came out of the Nuclear Agreement between Iran and global powers and now Iran says it will breach, on 27 June, the limit on its stockpile of enriched uranium that was set in the Nuclear Agreement of 2015. 

Now Iran has recently said it had exposed a large cyber espionage network it alleged was run by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and that several US spies had been arrested in different countries as the result of this action. Security analysts say that Iran has used hackers to send phishing emails to a series of US targets. 

US-Iran tensions are growing following accusations by US President Donald Trump’s administration that Tehran attacked two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, a vital oil shipping route and the taking down of a US drone. 

Now US Cyber Command has launched a reciprocal digital strike against an Iranian spy group that supported the recent limpet mine attacks on commercial ships, according to two former intelligence officials who were interviewed by some of the US press.

The United States has also deployed a carrier strike group and bombers to the and announced plans to deploy 1,500 troops to the Middle East, prompting fears of a conflict. 

The Iranian group, which has ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, has over the past several years digitally tracked and targeted military and civilian ships passing through the economically important Strait of Hormuz, through which pass 17.4 million barrels of oil per day. Those capabilities, which have advanced over time, enabled attacks on vessels in the region for several years.

Though sources did not provide any further details of the retaliatory cyber operation, the response highlights how the Persian Gulf has become a staging ground for escalating digital, as well as conventional, conflict, with both the United States and Iran trying to get the upper hand with cyber capabilities.

The retaliatory cyber response follows several weeks of mounting tension in the region, which appeared set to boil over after last week’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf. 

US officials blamed Iran for the attacks and threatened to strike back if US interests in the region were harmed. Then, on Thursday 20th June, Iranians shot down a $240 million US military drone.In response, President Trump initially authorised, but then decided against, targeted military strikes. His tweets on Friday morning said that he pulled back before any missiles were launched when he learned 150 Iranians might die.

Meanwhile, multiple private US cyber intelligence firms have reported attempts by Iranian hackers in recent weeks to infiltrate American organisations. US officials have said they fear heightened escalations not only in physical space but in cyberspace as well.

The National Security Council declined to comment on the Iranian cyber group or the US Cyber Command response. 
Iran’s cyber capabilities are not the most sophisticated, at least compared to the United States’, but they are getting better. 
Tehran’s ability to gather information and unleash offensive operations has developed significantly in the last decade or so, particularly after Iranian centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant were struck by a malicious computer worm created by US and Israeli intelligence and first revealed in 2010. 

In 2010, the so-called Stuxnet virus disrupted the operation of thousands of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility in Iran. Iran accused the US and Israel of trying to undermine its nuclear program through covert operations.

“After the Stuxnet event, Iran really cranked up its capability,” said Gary Brown, who served as the first senior legal counsel for US Cyber Command and is currently a professor on cyber law at the National Defense University. Brown cited Iran’s cyber-attacks on global financial institutions, Saudi Aramco and the Sands Casino. 

Yahoo:         CBS:         Reuters:

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