Iran, the cyber threat … are we creating a new enemy ?

Pierluigi Paganini December 24, 2011

“Iran, the super power capable of threatening the world”. This is the title of a hypothetical sensationalist article aimed to enhance the computer skills of a nation of which little is known. In recent weeks the strange coincidence of events is helping to fuel this belief that leaving the majority of Western countries perceive these people as a terrible threat.


We read of a country the cutting edge of cyber warfare, a Nation that is able to develop and implement an efficient cyber strategy despite the objective difficulties that lives daily. Population of enlightened scientists able to hijack a sophisticated military drone with a spectacular as unlikely cyber attack to its GPS navigator system, scholars pampered by the central Government spending on cyber defense that seems larger portion of its income. The controversial events of the Stuxnet malware seem to confirm my statements, someone has special interest in destabilizing the country by attacking critical structures with sophisticated cyber attacks and using innovative cyber weapons. We read of SCADA systems for nuclear plant brought to their knees by a virus was probably introduced in a critical infrastructure using an USB stick and in the months after the Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, said that:
“Iranians are unusually talented [at cyber warfare] for some reason we do not fully understand.”
Explicit referencing to certification authority Diginotar hack and to the case of the drone RQ-170.
Iran seems to be considered a serious threat in cyberspace, creating a constant concern.

But are we sure that this is true? No one doubts Iran’s capabilities, but there is no doubt that his means and financial resources are nothing compared to those of the U.S., China, Israel and Russia. Although you are faced with a Nation that has fully understood the importance of a cyber strategy we cannot certainly consider it more offensive than others.
Personally I do not believe a single word written about hijacking of the drone. A security expert is willing to believe that the techicals have led the drone landing in enemy territory. I hesitate in-depth technical know how, but it is unlikely the possibility of using injection of fake coordinates with hijacking purpose. We face with communication problems, signals strenght and processes of alignment for the communications, power signals to be delivered to overlap the rightful source of data (consider that the drone was on patrol in an area next to a nuclear plant and therefore a cyber power as Iran is condidered s expected jamming systems), data encryption processes with which no one discussed so far. The drone is over in my opinion for calculation errors in a flat area and for this reason it appeared healthy. The Iranians have exploited the incident to the best in terms of media and propaganda.

The more I read the more I am convinced that someone agree to create a new monster, a new enemy against which it unleash its rage in a historical moment in which the Western world is fighting with the worst economical crysis of ever. Are we recognizing this enemy in Iran? For what reasons?

Main reasons I can immagine are

  • Search for a cohesion of purpose against a common enemy to strengthen political leadership that is losing support.
  • Trigger a war machine that is known as capable of allowing massive investments in the extraordinary arrangements, helping companies that support the Government, the same firms presents around the tables of the decisions that are expressing concern about the growing cyber ability of Iran.

Compounding my thesis there are two events occurred in recent days that will change the political landscape in the coming months:

  1. death of the dictator of North Korea, Kim Jong.
  2. the end of the conflict in Iraq.

The first event could have substantial implications on cyber space, reflecting the fact that many people interested in destabilizing the area, many highly trained in cyber warfare.

The second event in my opinion is rather crucial in economic terms. Substantially changed an item of expenditure of the U.S. government, and not only, that could free up significant resources to invest elsewhere … cyber weapons and more generally in the cyber strategy.

In a scenario do not forget that a wrong media management misrepresented Iran perception, but sir, Iran’s child have the same rights of our children, think first to consider them hostile to us because they will pay the bill.

In my opinion, Iran is a nation to be taken into account, which boasts a population of excellence researchers and who understood how critical is the garrison of the cyber space, so we must not demonize Iran, it would be what in football terms we call autogoal, is extremely counterproductive.

Merry Christmas to you and your families

Pierluigi Paganini

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