Iran's Ability to Carry out Attacks in Cyberspace May Be Improving

By Magnuson, Stew; Insinna, Valerie | National Defense, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Iran's Ability to Carry out Attacks in Cyberspace May Be Improving


Magnuson, Stew, Insinna, Valerie, National Defense


Only a few years ago, network security experts didn't rank Iran's abilities to carry out sabotage and cyber-espionage very highly compared to China, Russia and the United States.

That may be changing.

After falling victim to industrial sabotage in the now-famous Stuxnet attack, which went after centrifuges in Iran's Nantz Nuclear Facility, the nation may be looking at ways to reach out and cause similar mayhem inside the borders of its adversaries.

Gen. William Shelton, Air Force Space Command commander, when asked how Iran racked and stacked as a cyberpower today, said he couldn't say much publicly about it. Shelton also oversees the service's cyber-operations.

"It is dear the Nantz situation generated a reaction by them. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with. And let me just leave it at that," he told reporters.

A cyber-attack against Saudi Arabia's state-owned oil company Aramco left 30,000 company computers down for a week, and scrambled data so it could no longer be retrieved. Suspicions have fallen on regional rival Iran, although it is often difficult to attribute these attacks. A group called "Sword of Justice" claimed responsibility, citing repression against Shiites in counties such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

More recently, a shadowy group called the al-Qassam Cyber Fighters has launched a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against U.S. banks.

It is tough to know what the truth is because the facts are often classified, said Jon Iadonisi, co-founder of Alexandria, Va.-based White Canvas Group, which specializes in network security.

"Whether or not those are attributed to Iran, I'm not sure it even matters anymore what country they are from when everything is pretty much for hire," he said.

It isn't necessary anymore to have deep technical knowledge of software codes. …

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