Officials in Washington are claiming that Iranian hackers have stepped up attacks on the cyber networks of U.S. multinational corporations, focusing their attention on energy companies.
One former official said that the hackers have gone far enough for their actions to “worry people”, with the infiltrations enough in some cases to allow the attackers to control and manipulate the flow of oil and gas in the U.S..
The attacks follow similar action taken by the U.S. on Iran, where the Stuxnet worm – developed jointly the U.S. and Israel – managed to knock out an Iranian nuclear facility. Officials have again warned that Iran’s actions, which are thought to be more dangerous than the relatively benign Chinese attacks which gained publicity in recent months, could provoke yet more retaliation.
“This is representative of stepped-up cyber activity by the Iranian regime. The more they do this, the more our concerns grow. What they have done so far has certainly been noticed, and they should be cautious,” a Washington official explained.
The Iranian regime has denied any involvement in the attacks, claiming that the country has chosen to take the higher ground and ignore attacks made on its systems by U.S. based hackers.
“Although Iran has been repeatedly the target of state-sponsored cyber attacks, attempting to target Iran’s civilian nuclear facilities, power grids, oil terminals and other industrial sectors, Iran has not ever retaliated against those illegal cyber attacks,” commented Alireza Miryousefi, Iran’s spokesman at the United Nations.
“In the lack of international legal instruments to address cyber warfare, Iran has been at the forefront of calling for the creation of such instruments,” Miryousefi explained. “We categorically reject these baseless allegations used only to divert attentions.”
Although Washington has felt the need to speak out about these latest attacks, Iranian infiltration of U.S. computer networks is nothing new – Iranian hackers have were blamed for attacks on U.S. banking systems in late 2012 and early this year.
News of the hacks comes about two weeks after Washington warned citizens of possible impending attacks, when officials said that they were “highly concerned” about the potential for large-scale disruption to the country’s energy network. Months before, chemical, water and electrical plants had been highlighted as possible targets for hackers by officials in the U.S. capital.
The information provided by officials builds on an executive order handed down by President Barack Obama in February to distribute information about potential cyber attacks more quickly.