The United States is in the midst of a full-fledged cyber war against Iran, with attacks on U.S. banks and oil refineries crippling their networks.
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, a former U.S. government official said U.S. authorities believe that Iranian-based hackers were responsible for the cyberattacks that have devastated Persian Gulf oil and gas companies.
The Wall Street Journal said these attacks have also been aimed at U.S. banks, causing their websites to deny service to its users.
Denial of service attacks target specific computers and networks, most commonly by overwhelming the system with information. Computers and networks exchange requests to communicate with one another. When too many are sent to a system, access to the website it hosts is denied as it tries to process the requests.
Kyle Howllet, web applications developer for California Baptist University Online and Professional Studies said, “It (denial of service attacks) is like a bath tub, if the drain is clogged and the water keeps flowing, it will overflow.”
U.S. authorities believe the cyber-attacks were likely supported by the Tehran government and is in retaliation for the latest round of American penalties against Iran, the San Francisco Chronicle said.
Leon Panetta, secretary of defense, said the Iranian cyber threat has grown. He also said the government is prepared to take action.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Panetta said Tehran has undertaken an effort to use the Internet to its advantage.
In an interview with the The Wall Street Journal, a U.S. official said Iranian hackers do not have the ability and resources to mount and sustain a major attack without the support and technical expertise of the government.
Attacks against U.S. banks such as JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. and Bank of America Corporation were unable to provide user services. These attacks feature computers that are programmed to assault a particular website until it is knocked offline.
“I think that my money is secure (with Bank of America) for right now,” said Yvonne Fyne-Nsofor, sophomore international business major. “I am not going to overreact just yet.”
The attacks, which have occurred all year, are in retaliation for harsh sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial divisions,to halt Tehran’s nuclear development program.
Howllet said, “It’s not a matter of how powerful (Iran is) but a matter of how balanced their access to Internet connections are.”
Michael Knight, customer support analyst for CBU Information and Technology Services, said in order to achieve that level of threat, “they would have advanced programming and understandin of network systems.”
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ilan Berman, a Middle East expert, said Iran’s strategy has shifted from strengthening its cyber defenses to its offensive cyber weapons division.
“Cyber defense is putting infrastructure in place to avoid being attacked over the Internet network,” Knight said. “Hackers a lot of time write code to get around defenses that way. It is less about the hardware, and more about the code.”
The attacks have not yet caused major damage or financial loss, but could in the future. The attacks have captured the attention of U.S. officials, but has not triggered a direct response.