By Mahmoud Hakamian
Iran poses a very real threat to the world’s supply of oil — and after the new round of sanctions on May 8th, tensions between the US and Iran have reached a critical point. We must be prepared to slam any Iranian sponsored terrorism at a moment’s notice, including Iran’s growing cyber capabilities that threaten the United States or our allies in the region.
Iran is now threatening nearly one-third of the world’s ocean-shipped oil that passes through the Straits of Hormuz. The White House decided to deploy U.S. forces to protect this critical waterway. The USS Abraham Lincoln, along with a group of B-52 bombers have recently been deployed to the Middle East.
Iran consistently puts our interests and those of our allies at direct risk. For instance, Iran has funded Hezbollah, a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans. As well, Iran supports the Syrian regime has made that conflict one of bloodiest experienced in recent times. Iran’s meddling in Yemen has created one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time.
While Iran’s cyber efforts are a more recent development, they continue their efforts to perfect them. In the last decade, Iran has repeatedly struck the United States and our allies, like the Saudi Arabian oil industry, with relative impunity.
Iran’s hackers deny involvement in the distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks on U.S. banks between 2012 and 2013, the destructive attacks targeting the Las Vegas Sands corporation in 2014, the major intrusion campaign targeting U.S. companies and others between 2016 and 2017, and more recent activities targeting the global domain name service infrastructure. Iran’s cyber activities grow more aggressive, while the United States makes little to no response.
With tensions rapidly increasing in the Middle East, a look back should show us that a low-level war waged against us and our allies is inevitable. This war will likely occur soon, in cyberspace, and these attacks will seek to exact a very real price on American companies.
In preparation for this attack, the government must share information with the U.S. private sector, and with industry.
Our allies in the Middle East, such as our friends in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, are on the front lines of Iranian attacks. Government should share information about potential cyber threats with them. It must be made clear to Iran that our government will to respond to a cyber-attack just as we would a physical attack, just as Israel recently responded to Hamas attacks.
Our own cyber warriors should be free to start taking action now to prevent the Iranian threat. Congress recently provided the president and the Department of Defense (DOD) with clear authority to take action to disrupt, defeat and deter cyber-attack campaigns by Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, and DOD has made clear that its new policy is to “defend forward” and persistently engage our cyber enemies.