This is not something they can put back together so easily.
That’s what one official told the Washington Post for a piece published Saturday afternoon documenting what sounds like an aggressive cyber attack launched by the US against Iran on Thursday night.
Yahoo broke the news on Friday, but details were sparse. Now we know Trump personally approved the operation which, unlike the aborted airstrikes, did not come with the risk of human casualties.
The “offensive” digital strike is said to have crippled key IRGC systems responsible for launching rockets and missiles. According to WaPo’s sources, the Pentagon suggested going ahead with the strikes earlier this month, following the incident in the Gulf Of Oman.
The operation is described as “extremely sensitive” and it sounds as though the groundwork may have been laid prior to the June 13 tanker bombings.
Nobody at the White House or US Cyber Command would comment. The Pentagon cited operational security in the course of declining to discuss the matter.
One former Trump cyber administration official called this “the modern version of what the US Navy has to do to defend itself at sea and keep international shipping lanes free from Iranian disruption.”
This was, apparently, the first offensive strike since Cyber Command was bumped up to a full combatant command earlier this year. As WaPo goes on to write, “it leveraged new authorities, granted by the president, that have streamlined the approval process for such measures.”
This will purportedly help keep the Strait of Hormuz from witnessing further disruptions, but one certainly imagines the IRGC could simply resort to more “conventional” measures if Iran really wanted to make life difficult for ships in the Gulf.
DHS on Saturday warned US industries about potential cyber attacks originating from Iran. Christopher Krebs, director of DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, quite literally said the Iranians would try to burn down your house. “Iranian actors and their proxies are not just your garden variety run-of-the-mill data thieves”, he said. “These are the guys that come in and they burn the house down.”
Here is the full statement from CISA:
As far as whether DHS’s warning is related to heightened geopolitical tensions, Krebs told WaPo that “shifting dynamics” are indeed a factor.
Yahoo News on Friday said the US had targeted an Iranian spy group that allegedly supported the limpet mine attacks earlier this month. That was according to two former intelligence officials. Saturday’s reporting from WaPo provides a far more comprehensive take. All of this comes just a week after The New York Times reported that the US has stepped up cyber attacks on Russia, a report Trump (loudly) insisted was “fake news”.
Speaking of the Times, the paper was able to flesh out the Yahoo story a bit. “Multiple computer systems were targeted, including those believed to have been used by an Iranian intelligence group that helped plan the tanker attacks”, the Times says, adding that “an additional breach targeted other computer systems that control Iranian missile launches.”
There is some precedent here. As both WaPo and the Times note, the strike against the Iranian spy group is reminiscent of a US attack on Russia’s notorious Internet Research Agency last November.
There was no word on whether Thursday’s operation by US Cyber Command has been deemed sufficiently effective to supplant Trump’s more rudimentary “cyber strikes” when it comes to deterring Iran…
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018