July 23, 2019
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US reportedly launched covert cyberattack against Iran

Washington DC, Jun 23 (efe-epa).- The United States covertly launched offensive cyber operations against an Iranian intelligence group's computer systems on the same day the president pulled back on using more traditional methods of military force, according to a report from the Dow Jones newswires supplied to EFE on Sunday.

The cyberstrikes, which were approved by President Donald Trump on Thursday, targeted computer systems used to control missile and rocket launches that were chosen months ago for potential disruption, according to a US official familiar with the matter.

The strikes were carried out by US Cyber Command and in coordination with US Central Command.

The official declined to provide specific details about the cyberattacks, but said they didn't involve loss of life and were deemed "very" effective.

They came during the peak of tensions this week between the US and Iran over a series of incidents across the Middle East, including Tehran's shooting down of an American reconnaissance drone.

The attacks also came as US fears have grown that Iran may seek to lash out with cyberattacks of its own, as multiple cybersecurity firms said they had already seen signs Tehran is targeting relevant computer networks for intrusion and appeared particularly focused on the US government and the American energy sector, including oil and gas providers.

Cyber Command and the National Security Council didn't respond to requests for comment. Details of the cyber operations were first reported late Friday by Yahoo News.

Current and former US officials have warned that cyberattacks against Iran could increase the likelihood that Iran may respond in kind, and have noted Iran is particularly unpredictable in its own use of cyberattacks.

On Saturday, the Department of Homeland Security's top cybersecurity official, Chris Krebs, issued a statement warning that Iran's malicious cyber activities were on the rise.

Such attacks could be destructive in nature, Krebs said.

"What might start as an account compromise, where you think you might just lose data, can quickly become a situation where you've lost your whole network," he said.

The current concern about Iran's capabilities and intent builds on months of mounting alarm about how Iran could use cyber means to retaliate against the US for the Trump administration's tough posture and heated rhetoric toward the country, Dow Jones added in its report to EFE.

In April, the FBI issued an alert to private industry warning that Iran could retaliate in response to the US formally designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.

The US attacks Thursday appear to be the first known instance of the US Cyber Command using new authorities granted by the president and Congress last year to more easily allow for disruptive cyber operations against other countries that didn't involve election security.

Previously, in a classified operation known as Synthetic Theology, US Cyber Command jammed servers belonging to the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg, Russia, troll farm, according to people familiar with the operation.

White House national security adviser John Bolton, speaking earlier this month at a Wall Street Journal event, appeared to telegraph that these kinds of attacks would become more frequent.

"We're now opening the aperture, broadening the areas we're prepared to act in" beyond election security, Bolton said.

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Related content

Bolton warns Iran: ‘Do not confuse prudence with weakness’

Jerusalem, Jun 23 (efe-epa).- The United States national security adviser warned on Sunday that the decision not to attack Iran is temporary and that the country should not mistake "prudence for weakness."

White House national security adviser John Bolton made the remarks during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The pair held discussions at the Israeli leader’s residence and spoke at a joint press conference about the strength of their alliance and the magnitude of the threat that Iran represents in the region.

Bolton emphasized that the White House's determination not to attack Iran is a temporary decision.

"Netanyahu's good relationship with presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin augurs well for the meeting and for a better alignment of the policies of these three countries in a series of fundamental security issues," said Bolton.

After insisting that Iran represents a threat to international peace and security in the Middle East and the world, the US warned that neither Iran nor any other hostile actor should confuse "prudence and discretion for weakness."

Bolton, known for his tough stance against the Iranian regime, emphasized that the US decision not to attack Iran is "for the time being."

Netanyahu pointed out that the Iranian threat dates from much earlier than the recent incidents in the Persian Gulf, when an American drone was shot down and two vessels attacked.

Both referred to the new sanctions that the US will impose on the country, which Bolton said will be announced on Monday and that Netanyahu praised.

Bolton’s visit to Israel came two days before a tripartite meeting between the national security advisors of Israel, Russia and the US to discuss growing tensions in the region and escalating tensions between the US and Iran.

Relations between Tehran and Washington have escalated in recent weeks, with the US deciding to send additional troops, ships and missiles to the Persian Gulf.

The US has accused Iran of a series of alleged sabotage attacks against oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, most recently on June 13 when the Japanese-operated Kokuka Courageous and Norwegian-owned Front Altair were hit by explosives.

Iran has denied any involvement in the incidents and has instead accused the US of trying to destabilize the region. EFE-EPA

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