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US officials reveal secret cyber strike against Iran

Written by Wed 16 Oct 2019

Secret US cyber attack reportedly targeted Iran’s disinformation operation

The US executed a cyber attack against Iran following the September 14 attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, according to a report.

Speaking anonymously to Reuters, two US officials speaking under anonymity confirmed the secret operation took place in late September and was aimed at stymying Tehran’s propaganda efforts in the wake of the attack.

Iran is known to use a host of websites to spread pro-state messaging in a global propaganda operation that cyber security experts and social media giants are beginning to uncover.

Tehran is not alone in using these tactics. Facebook and Twitter have identified sophisticated foreign influence operations operating out of China, India, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, who frequently use these platforms to influence global audiences.

Iran was also accused of launching a number of cyber attacks on the Post Office and the UK’s local government networks in the lead up to Christmas last year.

The exact nature of the attack is unclear, but one official told Reuters that the operation targeted physical hardware and appears more limited than similar operations carried out against Iran after an American drone was downed in June, and the alleged attack by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on oil tankers in the Gulf in May. It is also unclear if the attack was unique or part of a larger cyber operation.

Iran was also recently accused of hacking the US after a cyber group with ties to Tehran attempted to compromise email accounts connected to President Trump’s reelection campaign.

In 2010, the US and Israel infamously infected Iran’s nuclear weapons infrastructure with the Stuxnet virus, reportedly ruining one-fifth of the Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.

“We have entered a new age of cyber warfare, where sophisticated groups are using advanced software that is capable of going under the radar of traditional security controls, plants itself in the heart of critical systems and uses that knowledge to its advantage,” said Dave Palmer, Director of Technology at cyber security firm Darktrace.

“This will take the form of espionage to gain competitive advantage, outright theft of intellectual property and other digital assets, or a foothold in the target’s systems that might be exploited in the future. We see this particularly against providers of critical infrastructure: oil and gas companies, transportation networks, power grids, etc. In the last two years, we’ve come to expect a more sinister goal of destabilizing democratic institutions, and undermine their credibility and legitimacy.”

Written by Wed 16 Oct 2019


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