On Thursday, the US launched a cyber-attack on Iranian weapons systems, according to sources. This attack is a retaliation by the US govt after Iran shot down a US spy drone. In response to the drone’s destruction, the US was ready to carry out a military strike against Iran but US President Donald Trump said he called it off at the last minute after being told some 150 people could die. Although that didn’t stop him from secretly authorizing US Cyber Command to carry out a retaliatory cyber attack on Iran. Defense officials had prepared such a cyber response as a contingency plan for weeks preceding the attack.
The cyber-attacks disabled computer systems controlling Iran’s rocket and missile launchers. Officials told the Guardian that the attack, which specifically targeted computer systems of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), had been provided as options after two oil tankers were bombed. The IRGC has been designated a foreign terrorist group by the Trump administration. The AP news agency said the cyber-attack had disabled the Iranian systems. The New York Times said it was intended to take the systems offline for a period of time.
The response by Iran
An Iran Minister however rejected these claims stating that US cyber attacks on Iranian targets were not successful. “They try hard, but have not carried out a successful attack,” Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s minister for information and communications technology, told Reuters. “Media asked if the claimed cyber attacks against Iran are true,” he said. “Last year we neutralized 33 million attacks with the (national) firewall.” Azari Jahromi called attacks on Iranian computer networks “cyber-terrorism”, referring to Stuxnet, the first publicly known example of a virus used to attack industrial machinery, which targeted Iran’s nuclear facilities in November 2007.
In response to the shooting down of the U.S drone, an Iranian navy commander warned it could be repeated. “Everyone saw the downing of the unmanned drone,” navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency. “I can assure you that this firm response can be repeated, and the enemy knows it.”
On Saturday the US Department for Homeland Security warned that Iran was stepping up its own cyber-attacks on the US. Christopher Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said “malicious cyber activity” was being directed at US industries and government agencies by “Iranian regime actors and their proxies.”
The US military and intelligence officials are drafting plans for additional cyber attacks against Iranian targets. It will also further impose sanctions on Iran. President Trump said these sanctions were “major” and were needed to prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and economic pressure would be maintained unless Tehran changed course.
Technology plays a central role in national security and foreign policies. Most recently, the US-China trade war saw Huawei and Apple caught at the center of escalating tensions. US prohibited wide swath of technology deals with a “foreign adversary” for national security reasons. National security and technological environments are intertwined because technology has a strong influence on the ways wars are fought and the character of the missions reserve components are asked to perform. It is often caught in the web of trade wars. The US Iran cyber attack is a clear example of the way the lines between physical and digital warfare are blurring.