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Cyber Security war on Iran!

Interesting Article: "Iran and the era of cyber infection" by Dominic Basulto / Washington Post published Monday, March 12th, 2012.

An interesting article mentioned that like it or not, we’ve entered a new era in which the global geopolitical balance may be determined by hackers and cyber-activists in hooded sweatshirts rather than career diplomats in fashionable pantsuits. Would you like to know more?

After President Barack Obama’s March 4 address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee supporting Israel against the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, the leading Republican presidential candidates provided their best options for diffusing the nuclear threat. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former senator Rick Santorum would launch an attack, if necessary, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney would fill the Middle East with warships and military hardware. We don’t know exactly what Obama would do, but we know he “[has] Israel’s back.” However, amidst all this wartime bravura, there’s another option on the table that has yet to be more openly considered — a cyber-attack to cripple Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.

There is mounting evidence that the U.S. and Israel mounted a similar type of attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010. On March 4, CBS News' "60 Minutes" covered the so-called Stuxnet virus, which was a bit of computer code programmed to knock out key elements of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Stuxnet worked by steadily infecting a growing number of computers via USB drives until it finally found its way into the computers that control Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, forcing them to spin into oblivion without alerting their operators.

Nobody has actually claimed credit for the creation and deployment of the Stuxnet worm but, due to the sophistication of Stuxnet, Iranian officials and retired intelligence experts have hinted that this attack likely originated with a state government that had deep knowledge of Iran’s nuclear plans — most likely the U.S. or Israel. The likelihood is high that more of these cyber black ops are on the way. Recent reports suggest that nations such as China are already preparing to mount stealth cyber-attacks against the U.S. Given this, it’s hard to believe that the U.S. defense establishment is not also figuring out ways to carry out ever-more lethal covert operations.

There are obvious advantages to a cyber-attack that takes place out of the public eye. Most importantly, it would avoid the collateral damage of a military attack and obviate the need for a full-on military presence in Iran or assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. The primary disadvantage, of course, is that we could be opening up a Pandora's Box to the world, in which other nations get access to Stuxnet-like viruses and reverse-engineer them to take out soft targets in the West.

Two U.S. government satellites were targeted by hackers a number of times between 2007 and 2008, a congressional commission has revealed. In a draft version of its 2011 report, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has stated that over a period of a year, one Landsat-7 and one Terra-AM1 satellite were attacked a total of four times through a ground station in Norway.

While the satellites are used solely for scientific research and imaging, the report states that the hackers took total control of both, and goes on to suggest that should more sensitive targets like GPS or spy satellites be compromised this could be a far greater problem.

For the past few months now, the nation's top military, intelligence and law enforcement officials have been warning Congress and the country about a coming cyber attack against critical infrastructure in the United States that could affect everything from the heat in your home to the money in your bank account. The warnings have been raised before, but never with such urgency, because this new era of warfare has already begun.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: There's a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyber attack. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers: We will suffer a catastrophic cyber attack. The clock is ticking.

And there is reason for concern. For more than a decade, the U.S. military establishment has treated cyberspace as a domain of conflict, where it would need the capability to fend off attack, or launch its own. That time is here. Because someone sabotaged a top secret nuclear installation in Iran with nothing more than a long string of computer code.

Ret. Gen. Mike Hayden: We have entered into a new phase of conflict in which we use a cyber weapon to create physical destruction, and in this case, physical destruction in someone else's critical infrastructure.

After several failures, Congress is once again trying to pass the nation's first cyber security law. And once again, there is fierce debate over whether the federal government should be allowed to require the owners of critical infrastructure to improve the security of their computer networks. Whatever the outcome no one can say the nation hasn't been warned.



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