The United Nations gave Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s platitudes a platform to claim that centers of power are entrusted to the devil, and the Holocaust did not happen. Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear weapon capabilities are cause for grave concern. Not making headlines are cyber devices that have joined his terrorist arsenal.
Credible intelligence shows that Iran is using DDoS (denial of service) attacks. In a DDoS attack the Web site becomes overloaded, and unable to perform. Senator Joseph Lieberman, Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said DDoS causes functional and significant damage.
Another malevolent cyber technique is spear-phishing. It corrupts a computer system by uploading malicious attachments and gaining access to sensitive information. A recent incident against a United States nuclear facility found materials had been loaded into a laptop that spread malware to 100 network hosts.
In addition to terrorist cyber attacks, there are criminal cyber attacks. The FBI shows that cyber criminals use stolen credentials from financial institution employees to transfer customer account funds by wire to overseas banks.
JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America were attacked last week. Middle Eastern hackers “Cyber Fighters of Izz ad-din Al Qassam”, claimed responsibility referencing a U Tube video about Mohammed. Senator Joe Lieberman said that it was carried out by Iran and the Quds Force, a branch of the Iran military. The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) has advanced the threat level from elevated to high.
There were more than 198 cyber attacks on US electrical power grids and financials systems in 2011; 9 attacks in 2010. These events were estimated to cost over $250 billion. Some public companies that have been attacked are Google, Microsoft, Booz Allen, AT&T, Visa, MasterCard, Citigroup the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
China and Russia have long been strategic threats to U.S. cyber systems, such as financial networks, electrical power grids, military systems, fuel pipelines and transportation networks. Jeffrey Carr, a cyber warfare specialist said that Iran is technically proficient, well funded, and that cyber offense is a top priority. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates believes “If a terrorists group gains destructive cyber capability, we must assume it will strike.”
The Obama Administration leaked cyber secrets on Stuxnet and Flame, which were disclosed in the New York Times destroying the clandestine operation. The Stuxnet Worm was developed by Israel and the United States, to affect Iran’s nuclear program. Flame, the largest espionage intelligence gathering program in history, was designed to capture keystrokes, images and conversations in and around the infected area.
Lack of appropriate White House cyber-security is criticized from both sides of the aisle, including Senator Dianne Feinstein. General Keith Alexander, director of National Security Agency and chief of US Cyber Command said that Stuxnet is a weapon of unprecedented power and complexity. With it a computer code could be used to disrupt computer systems internally and to physically alter how a facility works or to potentially destroy it. This cyber tool can be turned against the homeland.
Senator Lieberman warns that the worm could be used as a blueprint for malicious hackers. Richard Clark cyber security expert said that Stuxnet was a plug and play worm that foreign governments could turn against the U.S. It could control elevators and prison doors. Anything controlled by computers in our country could be controlled by Stuxnet.
Referring to leaked high level security Stuxnet information on Iran’s nuclear program, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency responded “The American cyber attacks against our country will receive a decisive response with reciprocal measures.”
Department of Homeland Security has been working with infrastructure owners to combat a series of cyber intrusions targeting natural gas pipeline companies and electric providers. The Joint Chiefs of Staff Intelligence Directorate issued a report on September 14th which confirmed continuing cyber attacks against the United States. If an attack succeeds in shutting down our power grids; there would be no food delivery to stores, no water supplied to homes and businesses, no access to cash from banks, no telephone, television, or internet. Gas could not be pumped, no transportation. If the attack destruction were nationwide and outages prolonged; agribusiness would dry up, food shortages, and starvation would prevail.
Sean McGurk, former Department of Homeland Security official and a senior officer at Industrial Control Systems Information Sharing Analysis Center said that the United States is one of the most computer dependent nations in the world. This makes us vulnerable. Iran, and every malicious government with destructive cyber technology, bestows clear and present danger to the United States.
Family Security Matters contributor Darlene Casella was, before her retirement, an English teacher, a stockbroker, and president/owner of a small corporation. She lives with her husband in La Quinta, California, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.