Aug 15, 2013, 11:30 am EST

A study titled “Iran:How a Third Tier Cyber Power Can Still Threaten the United States” states that Iran has sufficient cyber capabilities to attack the US

Iran has sufficient cyber capabilities to attack the US causing serious damages to the critical infrastructures of the country. The news doesn’t surprise the cyber security experts that know very well how much is vulnerable the country to a cyber-attack, we are discussing of Information Warfare for a long time and many intelligence reports demonstrated that cyber terrorists and state sponsored hackers could hit critical infrastructure using malicious code and tools available on the internet and purchased in the underground. A new study sustains that despite the Iranian cyber capabilities are considered modest, they could be sufficient to launch attacks against the U.S. that would do more damage to public perceptions than actual infrastructure.

The study titled “Iran: How a Third Tier Cyber Power Can Still Threaten the United States” was published by the Atlantic Council, a NATO organization based in Washington, it highlights that a cyber-attack could be used for destructive purposes and to cause serious damage to the targeted country.

Atlantic council

The Atlantic Council’s Iran Task Force and its Cyber Statecraft Initiative worked together on the analysis conducted to evaluate cyber warfare options available to the Iranian Government in case of cyber warfare against US.

This new prospective is different from what is happening in the past, when cyber-attacks have only triggered a political crisis. The most popular cyber-attack is the past on nation-states was the Russian one against Estonia in 2007 that “caused a political crisis, not a military one,”

a significant Iranian cyberattack against the United States would take on outsized importance, regardless of its technical sophistication.” “Iran does not need the equivalent of a Ferrari to inflict damage on U.S. infrastructure: A Fiat may do”states the study.

A cyber offensive could be ideal for the Iranian Government, it could hit the adversary denying any responsibility, another option could be the hiring of cyber mercenary groups located in Russia or Lebanon.

Let’s imagine the effect of a cyber-attack against the New York Stock Exchange or the effects of a blackout on the large-scale caused by a cyber-attack against national electric grids, public perceptions could have a devastating impact.

It’s not a mystery that Iranian state-sponsored hackers already hit US in the past, in particular US intelligence believes that they are responsible for the wave of cyber-attacks that hit US major banks with powerful DDoS attacks.

The study considers US, Russia and some Western nations as “tier one” cyber powers, putting China “a step behind them” at “tier two,” and Iran, which only recently has begun to develop an online warfare capability, is a “third tier” power.

Personally I consider this view optimistic, China has in my opinion a great cyber capability and respect other countries is investing much more in the development of new cyber weapons. Consider also that China is historically considered the most active country in cyber espionage, an activity that already given to Government of Beijing a great advantage on its competitors.

The report compares the growth of Iranian cyber capabilities to the North Korean menace that has caused serious damage to South Korean infrastructure recently.

“There is no reason to believe that Iran’s growing cyber army is any less capable than that of an isolated Asian rogue state with few IT graduates, limited Internet access, and a paucity of computers,” the study states.

What to expect in the future?

“While the cyber conflict may escalate, it is unlikely that there will be an overt cyber war anytime soon between the United States and Iran. So far, there have been campaigns of relatively limited aims on both sides, and with a new president just elected in Iran who is promising “constructive 
engagement” with the United States, open and more aggressive campaigns are unlikely in the near future. A continuation of covert irregular conflict, however, with involvement by the Revolutionary Guards and associated militias and proxies, is certainly possible. The Guards report to the hard-line clerical establishment, led by Khamenei, who remains in charge of Iranian defense and foreign policy.”

It’s my personal opinion that cyberspace could be explored by any government in the same way, consider one state more advanced of another is a serious error, everybody is investing in the development of news cyber capabilities and until the cyber strategy of any countries will not secure internal infrastructure everyone is exposed to the effect of a cyber-attack, US included, and everyone could choose the cyber option to hit a company or a government.

(Source: CDM, Pierluigi Paganini, Editor and Chief )