US General: Iran Poses Serious Cyber Attack Threat

The Iranian government has put the willies up the US military yet again, as a top American general has voiced his concern that the Middle East is building up a formidable force to carry out cyber attacks on its enemies.

General William Shelton told journalists yesterday the Stuxnet virus, which disrupted Iran’s nuclear facilities and set back the uranium enrichment processes, shocked the Middle East nation into action.

Stuxnet, believed to have been the work of the US and Israel, hit the Natanz uranium processing plant and was the first of many attacks alleged to have hit official Iranian facilities.

Cyber attack

General William Shelton, who oversees US’ cyber military operations, said the reaction to Stuxnet and subsequent cyber attacks within Iran was cause for concern for Iran’s enemies.

“They are going to be a force to be reckoned with, with the potential capabilities that they will develop over the years and the potential threat that will represent to the United States,” Shelton said, according to various reports.

The US and Iranian officials have made repeated claims over the other’s involvement in cyber attacks over the last two years.

Earlier this month, US politicos claimed distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on major American banks were authorised by Iran, but failed to offer any evidence. Iran denied its involvement.

It was also mooted that Iran was behind cyber attacks on Saudi Aramco, the oil giant which saw 30,000 of its PCs taken offline. But Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at security firm F-Secure, was dubious about those claims.  “I don’t think I’m buying it. Something is missing. If they were retaliating why wouldn’t they be retaliating against the US or Israel?” he asked.

In mid-2012, Iran claimed its nuclear facilities were yet again under “massive cyber attack”, claiming the UK, US and Israel were the perpetrators, but there was little subsequent fallout.

There is plenty of bluster at the minute, but little evidence of all-out cyber warfare, as attribution remains a murky area.

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Thomas Brewster

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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