Iran has stepped up a campaign of cyberattacks against U.S. companies and has successfully hacked the computer networks of several American energy firms.
In the latest cyberassault, Iranian hackers accessed control-system software that could permit them to damage or destroy oil and gas pipelines in the future, reports The Wall Street Journal
, quoting a former U.S. official who said the attacks had proceeded "far enough to worry people."
"This is representative of stepped-up cyberactivity by the Iranian regime. The more they do this, the more our concerns grow," one official told the newspaper, adding, "What they have done so far has certainly been noticed, and they should be cautious."
In the past, Iran has blamed Washington for carrying out its own cyberattacks against the Islamic Republic. The most notorious was the 2010 assault on an Iranian nuclear facility by the Stuxnet worm, said to have been developed and launched by the United States and Israel.
The latest campaign has targeted the control systems that run the operations of oil and gas as well as power companies, meaning they could, in theory, manipulate the software to delete important data or turn off key safety features, according to the Journal.
The fear in Washington is that the Iranian action is potentially more dangerous than cyberattacks by Chinese hackers, who have reportedly accessed the intellectual property of several U.S. corporations.
Officials did not tell the Journal the names of the energy companies involved in the attacks, but did acknowledge that some of the targets were oil and gas firms along the Canadian border.
Iranian officials have denied any involvement. "Although Iran has been repeatedly the target of state-sponsored cyberattacks, attempting to target Iran's civilian nuclear facilities, power grids, oil terminal and other industrial sectors, Iran has not ever retaliated against those illegal cyberattacks," Alireza Miryousefi, Iran's spokesman at the United Nations told the Journal.
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