Brett Bruen, president of the Global Situation Room, Inc. and former White House director of Global Engagement cautioned, “We are very likely to see Tehran in the coming days and weeks target American interests.” He added, “The most vulnerable and im-portant objective for them are American businesses. They see effecting some econom-ic impact as retribution.”
On November 4th the fully restored sanctions that the U.S. had once lifted as part of that deal went into effect. “The desperate regime may become a more aggressive actor both in the virtual and physical world … its hackers can still do serious damage,” ac-cording to a recent report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). “Even before the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal, Iranian hackers appear to have gotten bolder.”
Analysts for FireEye, a cyber-security firm, according to the Associated Press, report-ed a hacking group aligned with the Iranian government that had launched a cam-paign that targeted Mideast energy companies. Analysts also said Iran’s capabilities are now focusing on using social media — spreading false information and skewing public opinion.
Bruen said, “Some of those efforts were identified and taken down by social media companies. Many have not been detected or removed. The most damaging, as we saw with Russia, is when a country can penetrate networks and then weaponize that in-formation.”
In 2012, banking websites were attacked forcing services offline. The Financial Ser-vices Information Sharing and Analysis Center is an initiative that coordinates the industry’s defense against threats. Iranian hackers were suspected. “I think we’ve seen this before so of course we know they are capable … they’ve launched attacks be-fore so we’re just making sure we’re prepared, whether it be them or anybody else,” the center’s president and CEO, Bill Nelson, said of the threat from Iran. “The source of the attack almost becomes irrelevant. It’s more important to defend.”
“We are aware of reports claiming that Iran is increasing its cyber hacking activities,” said a State Department official. “The United States is deeply concerned with the Ira-nian regime’s malicious cyber activity. We express particular concern for cyber activi-ties targeting critical infrastructure that have the potential for disruptive or destruc-tive consequences.” The FDD report said that Tehran is willing to take great risks and “cause greater destruction.”
The U.S. has recently sanctioned and criminally charged Iranian hackers for targeting American universities and companies. However, the Iranian government denies that it engages in these types of attacks, calling its capabilities defensive. The State De-partment official added, “The Iranian regime prevents its own people from using the Internet in an attempt to bar them from obtaining information or connecting with the outside world,”“and yet the Iranian leadership uses it freely for their own nefari-ous purposes.”