Iran threat … are we close to the conflict?

Pierluigi Paganini December 28, 2011

These days, there are countless news regarding the Iranian government and its ability to pursue its objectives of a cyber strategy. Winds of war, many swear that the next conflict could involve the much disputed nation. That something has changed in recent weeks is palpable, the Tehran government has used more than one occasion events such as the capture of alleged U.S. drone for propaganda purposes. Are we facing with the usual skirmishes of an unprepared government trying to intimidate opponents or behind so much ostentation, there is a real capacity to fear? We try to put together the pieces of a complex puzzle that can make a realistic and objective picture of threat to Iran.

Certainly the central government, including the strategic importance of the issue cyber warfare, has allocated huge investment as stated by the newspaper “The Jerusalem Post“, which suggested a figure of around one billion dollars to offensive and defensive cyber increase both capabilities. The investment in advanced cyber capabilities seem to be proved by an investigative report produced by Univision which contains alarming footage of Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri discussing the use of cyber attacks targeting the FBI, CIA, White House, and nuclear power plant systems in the United States. Fearing cyber attacks from Iran, the Israeli government has arranged a specific cyber group that will be responsible for improving Israeli defenses. Do not forget that the Israeli and U.S. governments are among the main suspects in the case Stuxnet, malware designed to attack SCADA systems present in some plant of Iran, the first real cyber weapon.

Iran is changing its cyber defense model, it has been announced by the Head of Iran’s Passive Defense Organization giving high priority to the management of potential potential cyber attacks. Inside the Defence Organizzation it has been established a cyber command center who is responsible to guarantee internal cyber security being able also to produce defense hardware and software.

Brigadier General Gholam-Reza Jalali rejected media and researcher conviction that the computer viruses Stuxnet and Duqu have successfully affected Iranian nuclear plants. It also have declared that Iran IT researchers specialized in malware analysis have studied this malware. Are they trying to reproduce a similar weapon? Considering their investments in cyber warfare I believe that they have the knowledge to reproduce similar malware and I found this really worrysome considering also the level of protection implemented for several critical infrastructures all over the world. I believe that western countries are really not prepared to similar events. It’s really hard to secure delocalized structures exposed to several threats, and the cases of the Water facility in Illinois and the Hospital in Georgia have demonstrated what I’m saying.

Another important signal provided by Iran in recent days has been the transfer of the hosting sites of more than 90 percent of Iran’s governmental internet sites inside the country according the announcement of Ali Hakim Javadi, Iran’s deputy minister for communications and information technology, to the official IRNA news agency. Consider that more than 30,000 Iranian websites of key organizations had been hosted by foreign-based companies, mainly in North America, the data of which could have been exposed to danger at any moment. This transfer has been judged vital for protecting governmental information preserving data to intentional exposures. This confirm the importance given to preside the cyber space, and this measure is considered very effective to avoid sites hacking from external attacker and also it can restrict physical accessibility to the computers that store sensible data.

For a complicated situation, characterized by high tension between Iran and the United States added more disturbing elements to take into account:

  • The reports that the Iranian government has with Russia and China, cyber warfare possible mentors. Russia and Iran also share a common interest in limiting the political influence of the United States in Central Asia. This common interest has led the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Consider also that Iran and Russia have co-founded the Gas Exporting Countries Forum along with Qatar.
  • The difficulties in management by the U.S. Government of the phenomenon of hacktivism. Groups more aggressive manifest from his disagreement with actions that are always unprepared capture the Central Government and the organizations that collaborate with it.
  • The birth of adverse non-governmental groups of hackers to blame Western governments to pursue policies too estrere interference.
  • The interference pattern produced by some of the major industrial groups against the U.S. government that pushes in the direction of the conflict, an event that would bring in the coffers of these companies a huge flows of money.
  • Failure to comply with technology embargo against a hostile nation by Western companies. These companies in order to pursue their interests are arming the government of Tehran selling soficticated technology systems that could be used against the same Nations of their “providers”

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey says that the US military is ready to launch a military strike against Iran if necessary.

“We are examining a range of options. I’m satisfied that the options that we are developing are evolving to a point that they would be executable if necessary,” he said in an interview with US media in Afghanistan. 

Same opinion has the US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that confirmed that “no options were off the table” regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

General Dempsey also said:
“My biggest worry is that it may miscalculate our resolve. Any miscalculation could mean that we are drawn into conflict and that would be a tragedy for the region and the world,” 
and that the United States is collaborating with Israel in its intelligence gathering about Iran.

The imperative is not to lower our guard, actually investing in the development of a cyber strategy to deal with the threat. We haven’t be involved in an obsessive research of an enemy at all costs. History teaches that every conflict has a cost for the community and the real benefits are for the exclusive advantage of those companies close to governments deliberately aggressive. The conflicts are driven by fierce economic interests.

News of the day:

Britain, which closed its embassy in Tehran last month after it was ransacked by protesters, said on Thursday that Iranian authorities had blocked its website aimed at Iran.

What will happen tomorrow?

Pierluigi Paganini


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