Iran blames Israel for attacks on its cyber infrastructure

Iran claims it has foiled several cyber attacks staged by Israel which included a new version of the infamous Stuxnet malware.

Stuxnet is thought to have been developed in a joint effort between Israeli and US intelligence agencies.

“Recently, we discovered a new generation of Stuxnet which consisted of several parts … and was trying to enter our systems,” the ISNA news agency reported Gholamreza Jalali, head of Iran’s civil defense agency, as saying last week.

A New York Times report from 2012 revealed how Stuxnet ended up in the wild after it accidentally escaped from a targeted Iranian nuclear facility called Natanz.

The program was first authorised by President Bush and was only supposed to work within the Natanz facility, which was air-gapped from outside networks. However, it’s thought Stuxnet escaped after computers and memory cards were carried between the public internet and the private Natanz network.

In journalist David Sanger’s book Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power, Sanger reveals how US officials blamed the Israelis for slipping up in the malware’s coding:

“‘We think there was a modification done by the Israelis,’ one of the briefers told the president, ‘and we don’t know if we were part of that activity.’

Mr Obama, according to officials in the room, asked a series of questions, fearful that the code could do damage outside the plant. The answers came back in hedged terms. Mr Biden fumed. ‘It’s got to be the Israelis,’ he said. ‘They went too far.’”

Following the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on the state for alleged repeated violations, tensions between the US and Iran are running high.

Considering the heightened tensions, it’s possible the US and Israel are once again launching cyber attacks on Iran – but it sounds as if the state is well aware of the activity.

“Thanks to the vigilance of the technical teams, they returned empty-handed,” Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran’s communications minister, said on Twitter. “We will pursue this hostile act through international bodies.”

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