Iran vs West, cyber war or media conflict?

Pierluigi Paganini April 27, 2012

Today I have read several articles where is hypothesized an imminent cyber attacks of Iran cyber army against US infrastructures, this news seems alarming the international community. Are we close to a military attack of Iran? Why this news is circulating so closely?

Sources of intelligence report to Congress on Thursday that Iran is recruiting a hacker army to target the U.S. for cyber attack against critical infrastructures such as power grid and water systems. Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee Chairman Pat Meehan, R-Pa declared:

“If Iran is willing to blow up a Washington restaurant and kill innocent Americans, we would be naive to think Iran would never conduct a cyberattack against the U.S. homeland,”

meanwhile Ilan Berman, vice president of the hawkish American Foreign Policy Council, said

“Over the past three years, the Iranian regime has invested heavily in both defensive and offensive capabilities in cyberspace,”

“For the Iranian regime the conclusion drawn from Stuxnet is clear: War with the West, at least on the cyberfront, has already been joined, and the Iranian regime is mobilizing,”

The growing tension between Iran, the U.S. and Israel do not bode well, however these reports persistently circulated in internet don’t add anything new to a scenario that has long been known. Iran has understood how much strategic is a strong presence in cyber space, just in this new battle field it has found vulnerable many of its opponents deciding to invest in cyber warfare.  The Washington Times reported some issues contained in the relation presented to the two House Homeland Security subcommittee. The security experts are convinced that Iran is arranging a very offensive cyber army composed by different cells of hackers ready to move cyber attacks against the enemies.

But also this news is known the security sector, last year I wrote

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, IRGC, seems to have built one of the largest forces of hackers on the planet. “Emperor”, “Iran Hackers Sabotage” these are the names of the main group of hackers that during the last year have conducted several operation like destroy a government database or hack into two candidates’ websites. during the 2005 presidential election.

In May 2010, Ebrahim Jabbari, a provincial Revolutionary Guards commander, declared that the IRGC had the world’s second-largest cyber army at its disposal, the US intelligence is convinced of the potential of groups to the point of recognizing them as among the major cyber threats to the country.

In addition to cyber warriors and mercenaries, the Iran regime also has the control of the private IT firm Ashiyane Security Group, which has coordinated several cyber-attacks from Iran. Its illustrious victims are Mossad, Mossad, defence minister Ehud BarakNASA and several websites in the Arab world.

Of course I do not work for intelligence, but I’ve written before news that today someone would use as a pretext for a military attack. I think it is began a dangerous campaign the search for consensus on a military attack against Iran.
On one thing there can be no doubt, Iran is a dangerous country that has substantial financial resources, the proceeds of the oil market which is a leader, and that deeply hates the West and its policies. The military option is strongly supported in the U.S. and Israeli military echelons, give time to the government in Tehran would give it the opportunity to increase his attack power.

According to Frank J. Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University,

” due the high availability of cyber weapons on black market “adversaries do not need capabilities, just intent and cash.”,

and Iran has both.

“Iran has a long history of demonstrated readiness to employ proxies for terrorist purposes,” he also added  “There is little, if any, reason to think that Iran would hesitate to engage proxies to conduct cyber strikes against perceived adversaries.”

“We know that [the Iranians] will do something if they feel cornered,”

declared Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., chairman of the subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence.

“We know they have a capacity, and I think it’s realistic to try to assess the scope of that.”

U.S. intelligence officials declined to comment further on Iranian cyber capabilities, though they acknowledge the threat in general terms.

All the experts agree that Iran has dramatically increased its cyberwar capabilities, despite this consideration there is no evidence that Iran will use them against the US for striking attacks. A single attack could start the military reply of US and Israele that despite the Iranian propaganga is a dreaded event for Teheran Government.

“Like most nation-states, [Iran] may want to develop a cyber capability for the same reason it would want a nuclear capability — as a shield,” says retired Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Iranian Government is working on different fronts in my opinion, on one side it’s recruiting internal hackers in the name of religious motivations, on the other hand it is acquiring knowledge from mercenaries hackers coming from East Europe and also from Asia. It will no difficult for Iran to prepare its own cyber arsenal, and these cyber weapons could hit vulnerable western critical infrastructures.

Last and most important aspect that we must consider are the alliances that Iran has with Russia and China. These countries for several reasons are interested that Iran will mantains its stategic position. The oil and conventional weapon markets are just a couple of the these motivation, the presence of Iran is necessary to avoid the further infiltration of western legions.Thanks to these alliances Iran enjoys political and technology support of two major world powers, so I think unlikely an imminent military attack on Iran. The way of diplomacy satisfies all, at this moment. We will assist to continuous and bilateral attacks between Iran and the Western countries, waiting for events mutate unpredictably.

What could push the U.S. in a military operation?

An attack on American soil, whether conventional or conducting with a cyber attack, or the evidence, recognized by the international governments, that Tehran is really close to the establishment of a nuclear arsenal. The decision to attack should be taken as soon as possible, no more of two years, acting firmly and not spreading news like those with which I began the article with the sole purpose of gathering consents.

The risk of a cyber attack is high, however the likelihood is not changed in recent months.A growing number of nations are taking steps in this direction by investing in cyberwarfare, today it is Iran which country will be tomorrow?

Pierluigi Paganini

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