Iranian officials are claiming that the U.S. and its allies Israel and Britain are attacking the country’s nuclear facilities with sophisticated cyberweapons. And here you were, thinking that stuxnet and its ilk were dead and gone.
According to Reuters, the announcement was made by the English-language press in Tehran shortly after international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program broke down in Moscow. Reuters quotes Heydar Moslehi, Iran’s Intelligence Minister, as saying:
“Based on obtained information, America and the Zionist regime (Israel) along with the MI6 planned an operation to launch a massive cyber attack against Iran’s facilities following the meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in Moscow,” Iran’s English-language Press TV quoted him as saying.
“They still seek to carry out the plan, but we have taken necessary measures,” he added, without elaborating.
Iran has signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and has maintained that its nuclear activities are purely for electrical power generation. To say that other governments are skeptical of these claims would be a triumphant understatement.
There is good reason to believe Iranian officials when they say they are under cyberattack. Just weeks ago, the New York Times ran a stunning report which claimed that s0-called stuxnet work was created by the U.S. and Israel and had wrought havoc on Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities. Shortly thereafter, a sophisticated worm called “flame” was suspected of being another state-sponsored cyber weapon. Creepily, flame recently began committing cybersuicide by deleting itself from infected computers.
The claims that Iran has been the target of sophisticated electronic attacks and infiltration likely explains why the country has made cryptic announcements about a “home-grown” alternative to the Internet, and has made accessing foreign websites and online services more difficult than ever.
The timing and vagueness of the announcement are cause of pause, however. It’s not clear if Iranian officials are talking about a new attack, or are simply presenting old information. This may be a move by Iran to try and bring renewed public scrutiny to the issue of cyberwarfare as it relates to Iran’s nuclear program, especially as international officials will be meeting again to discuss the country’s nuclear program on July 3 in Istanbul.
When the revelations about stuxnet were published by the NYTimes, I wondered why officials would be willing to speak about what as ostensibly a successful operation — even anonymously. The thought occured to me that it might be because stuxnet was no longer useful, since it had escaped into the wild. Or maybe it was because there was something new afoot.
The sad truth is that we’ll likely never know what’s really going on.
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