On Tuesday, cyber security firm Cylance reminded the world of that growing threat when its analysts announced that Iranian hackers had targeted at least 50 companies and government organizations. The details of this analysis were carried by Bloomberg and they included claims that the attacks were backed by the Iranian government, as well as comparisons to the hacking efforts of Russia and China, two other traditional adversaries of the West.
The Bloomberg article explicitly connects Iran’s hacking activities to its support for terrorism, explaining that some of the recent attacks were directed at airports where information gathered from hacking could be applied to physical attacks. Indeed, the Iranian targets are reportedly different from those of Russian and Chinese hackers, who have also breached computer systems worldwide, but have generally focused on financial data.
While having different and possibly more directly threatening priorities, Iran is also quickly catching up to its much larger Asian partners, according to Cylance. While Iran lacks the technical skill of Russia and the population of China, its cyberespionage efforts are reasonably well staffed and have been directed with some effectiveness against some targets as far apart as the US, the United Arab Emirates, and South Korea.
Bloomberg points out that that latter location may signify a connection between these cyberespionage moves and intelligence cooperation between Iran and North Korea, which is now a nuclear armed state. That cooperation and the general concerns associated with Iran’s systematic hacking may raise new doubts about whether Iran can be trusted as a negotiating partner as the international community works to constrain its nuclear program.