Keeping Trump in power might be the best Iranian revenge for the assassination of Qasem Suliemani. One view could be that Trump, as a natural coward will ultimately reduce US forces and cede Middle East political influence to his masters in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Russia, despite his preference for empty posturing and protecting his personal economic interests.
While speculation centers on regional revenge attacks by Iran against US targets, there are other more meta-level possibilities that harken back to the nuclear agreement abandoned by the Trump administration.
“This is particularly worrisome, since Iran has explicitly shown its ability to conduct widespread cyberattacks against American businesses in response to U.S. government action, notably against the biggest U.S. banks throughout 2012 and 2013,”
Iranian cyber-attacks, while still often eclectic are also in the arsenal of instrumental options and may attack more vulnerable sectors like university, research, and financial institutions.
- Rising tensions with Iran are worrisome because Iran has previously conducted widespread cyberattacks against American businesses in response to U.S. government action, experts told CNBC.
- Iran also possesses a vast trove of intelligence, thanks to a sustained campaign of intellectual property theft against hundreds of U.S. academic institutions, according to the Department of Justice.
- It said targets have included universities that conduct biological, chemical, defense industrial, space and nuclear research for the federal government.
The Russians will still get their solid with the decentering of US power and the strengthening of their position, especially if they can keep their orange asset in power.
The Justice Department’s indictment of seven Iranian hackers for a “coordinated cyber assault” against 46 major financial institutions and a New York dam on March 24 was a good symbolic gesture, even though there is no measurable chance that any real action against the Iranian attackers will result. Many of the details in the indictment are not particularly surprising, however. The Islamic Republic has conducted an extensive, aggressive, and well-documented cyber campaign targeting U.S. and other foreign entities for years and is likely to expand its efforts further with the influx of cash and technology resulting from the nuclear deal.
Let us first turn to the indictment itself. During a period between 2011 and 2013, the hackers allegedly scanned the Internet for vulnerable computers, exploited them, and used them to attack the servers of U.S. financial institutions. They also leased servers in the U.S. to coordinate these attacks. One of the hackers was also charged with attempting to gain access to the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems of a dam near New York City. SCADA systems run critical infrastructure. It appears from the indictment that only happenstance prevented the hackers from being able to control the dam’s sluice gates. This incident should be a wake-up call. It underscores the vulnerability of our critical infrastructure to hacking as well as to the intent of Iranian elements to exploit that vulnerability.
Adding new enemies from a host of countries makes the 2020 election potentially more vulnerable to cyber-attack. But the US seems to be ready with counter-measures, at least in terms of Russia, and we remember what the US did in Stuxnet.
“Basically, it’s a war of strategic narrative,” said Sean McFate, a foreign policy expert and author of “The New Rules of War.” “We need to get into that domain.”
Military cyber officials are developing information warfare tactics that could be deployed against senior Russian officials and oligarchs if Moscow tries to interfere in the 2020 U.S. elections through hacking election systems or sowing widespread discord, according to current and former U.S. officials.
One option being explored by U.S. Cyber Command would target senior leadership and Russian elites, though probably not President Vladimir Putin, which would be considered too provocative, said the current and former officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue’s sensitivity. The idea would be to show that the target’s sensitive personal data could be hit if the interference did not stop, though officials declined to be more specific.
“When the Russians put implants into an electric grid, it means they’re making a credible showing that they have the ability to hurt you if things escalate,” said Bobby Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “What may be contemplated here is an individualized version of that, not unlike individually targeted economic sanctions. It’s sending credible signals to key decision-makers that they are vulnerable if they take certain adversarial actions.”