Tags: Emerging Threats | Iran | iran | cyberwarfare | Norse | attacks | sands

Iran Growing as a Skilled Cyberthreat, Experts Say

Iran Growing as a Skilled Cyberthreat, Experts Say
Tehran, Iran. (Borna Mirahmadian/Dreamstime)

By    |   Thursday, 16 April 2015 07:49 AM

Iran has been increasing the frequency and skill of its cyberattacks on targets around the world while negotiating limits on its nuclear capabilities, a new study conducted by cybersecurity firm Norse and the American Enterprise Institute reveals.

"Cyber gives them a usable weapon in ways nuclear technology does not," Frederick Kagan, with the institute's Critical Threats Project, told The New York Times. "It has a degree of plausible deniability that is attractive to many countries."

In February, National Intelligence Director James Clapper Jr. reported to Congress that Iranian hackers were behind a crippling attack on computers at the Las Vegas Sands hotel and casino, likely in retribution for comments made by its CEO Sheldon Adelson, an ardent supporter of Israel.

Clapper's comments, and another disclosure from President Barack Obama accusing North Korea of launching a cyberattack on Sony Pictures in retribution for the movie "The Interview," marked rare incidents in which countries were specifically targeted.

U.S. officials have also said Iran has attacked American bank computers in retaliation for ongoing sanctions against the country, and that hackers destroyed computers owned by the oil company Saudi Aramco to retaliate for the close ties Saudi Arabia maintains with the United States.

The Norse report, to be released Friday, when combined with American intelligence reports, suggests that Iran has increased its use of cyberweapons considerably over the past year, using them mainly for espionage purposes but also to wage retribution in cases like Sands, the Times said.

As Norse is a cybersecurity firm, reports The Times, it has incentive for reporting an increased number of attacks. However, the paper adds, Norse does not have incentive to link them to any one country and still has traced thousands of attacks on American systems to Iran.

The attacks also seem to becoming more sophisticated, says Norse and another cybersecurity firm, Cylance. They believe Iranian hackers are now aiming at infrastructure systems for attacks that are even more destructive.

The two companies, though, do not agree on whether the attacks have gone up in recent months, or if they are actually being pulled back during the nuclear talks.

The Norse report says its sensors detected more than 900 attacks on average every day coming from Iran Internet protocol (IP) addresses during the first half of March.

Stuart McClure, the CEO and founder of Cylance, said, however, there has been a drop in Iranian activity over the past few months.

According to American intelligence agencies, Russia and China are considered as the most sophisticated adversaries when it comes to cyberattacks, reports The Times, but officials say they are more concerned about Iran and North Korea because their attacks are aimed more at destroying systems.

Iran's hackers work for both private companies and the government, according to American officials, who believe the temptation could rise to launch attacks on critical targets such as railways or power grids.

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Iran has been increasing the frequency and skill of its cyberattacks on targets around the world while negotiating limits on its nuclear capabilities, a new study conducted by cybersecurity firm Norse and the American Enterprise Institute reveals.
iran, cyberwarfare, Norse, attacks, sands, infrastructure
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2015-49-16
Thursday, 16 April 2015 07:49 AM
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