JNS.org – Recent revelations about Iranian cyberattack plots confirm how seriously Iran takes this arena, said a prominent Israeli cyber expert.
July 26, Sky News reported that classified documents from Iran “reveal secret research into how a cyber attack could be used to sink a cargo ship or detonate a gas pump at a gas station.”
Internal files also contain information on satellite communication devices used by the global shipping industry and computer systems that control functions such as lighting, heating and ventilation in buildings around the world.
While the report did not reveal any new, unknown capabilities, they did demonstrate that Iran is “seriously engaging in cyber warfare,” said Professor Col. (res.) Gabi Siboni, an expert in cybersecurity, military strategy and technology at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security.
“The Iranians plan to work in the cybersphere in the way that is most beneficial to them and the most damaging to the targets of its attacks – and the target is not just Israel,” Siboni said.
According to Sky News, the classified Iranian document was formulated by the Iranian cyberattack unit called Shahid Kaveh, which is part of the Cyber Command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“The articles appear to reveal a particular interest in finding businesses and activities in Western countries, including the UK, France and the US,” said Sky.
“Such reports come as no surprise, but they indicate that Iran is working in a very systematic way,” Siboni said.
While no state can be completely immune, Israel is highly prepared for hostile state-sponsored cyber activity, Siboni said. Israel’s national cybersecurity directorate, which ensures that critical sites in the private and public sectors are adequately protected, and the Shin Bet intelligence agency, which helps prevent cyberattacks, and other organizations are working to to keep attackers at bay.
Israeli cyber defense organizations are well established and foil cyber incidents “all the time,” Siboni said.
The last known major cyberattack took place in April 2020, when Iran reportedly attempted to poison Israel’s water supply by increasing chlorine levels.
“The Iranians were able to infiltrate this incident, but they could not carry out their plot,” Siboni said. “The level of defense is good, but there is always something to improve. Some countries are more advanced than others in cyber defense.
“Iranian plots are not theoretical”
Israel’s size and its centralized control systems mean it is easier to defend than large countries with more complex government systems such as the United States, Siboni added.
In June, Italy announced that it was setting up a new national cybersecurity agency. Israel created its own national cyber defense agency in 2012.
Building proper defensive capabilities takes time, Siboni noted, and some countries could suffer greatly if targeted by Iran at this time.
Iran’s cyber-aggression will continue to target not only Israel, but other conflicting states, such as the Sunni-Arab nations. “It’s an asymmetric weapon. It can be used under the Threshold of War, unlike a drone or missile attack on a ship. This facilitates the choice of cyber attacks [as a recourse]. Iranian plots are not theoretical, ”Siboni said.
Ultimately, there is no clear distinction between cyber attacks and kinetic attacks, Siboni argued.
“Cyber is another tool. Trying to distinguish it from other spheres of combat is like trying to differentiate between air power and ground forces, ”he said. “We’re not just fighting an air war. Cyber attacks can work for attackers, but in major wars, kinetic strikes will continue to dominate for many years to come.
“Cyber operations will support kinetic attacks,” he continued. “Cyber attacks can cause damage, including physical damage, but artillery guns and bombs will do the most damage. “