Iran’s cyber warfare programme fact file
• Established in 2012
• Run by the Supreme Council of Cyberspace, which answers to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
• An indispensable pillar of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) and Iran’s foreign policies
• Fourth-largest cyber power in the world, according to IRGC, and a major player according to some think tanks
What is Iran’s cyber warfare programme used for?
It is used solely to carry out cyber espionage and launch cyber attacks in an attempt to damage the financial, security and political infrastructures of other countries.
Just last week, two Iranians were indicted in the US for a series of cyber attacks, targeting hospitals, schools, state agencies and other institutions, that held data hostage for ransom payments.
Brian Benczkowski, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department, said that those individuals “deliberately engaged in an extreme form of 21st-century digital blackmail, attacking and extorting vulnerable victims like hospitals and schools — victims they knew would be willing and able to pay”.
And this is far from the first time that the Iranian regime has been accused of something like this.
In 2013, US banking systems were attacked on an unprecedented level, which US officials said pointed to the Iranian government, while the US Justice Department recently indicted seven Iranians for attacks on 46 companies mainly in the banking and financial sector.
Furthermore, US intelligence believes that Iran was behind the 2012 “Shamoon” attack on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco oil corporation.
Why is Iran doing this?
Iran likes to avoid direct confrontation, as they know they are no match to the US’ military might, so they use proxy groups and cyber warfare, which are much harder to track and in some cases much more devastating.
Sadly, Iran’s cyber warfare programme is advancing too quickly for it to be ignored any longer and the international community must act now.
Dr Majid Rafizadeh wrote: “The regime has shown that it will not hesitate to attack rival countries through cyber platforms and inflict significant damage on ordinary people, as well as governmental, private and public institutions.
It is incumbent on the international community to act swiftly and hold the Iranian regime accountable for its cyber attacks against other governments and their citizens.”