The U.S. Government often warns of increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks from adversaries, but it may have actually contributed to those capabilities in the case of Iran.
A top secret National Security Agency document from April 2013 reveals that the U.S. intelligence community is worried that the West’s campaign of aggressive and sophisticated cyberattacks enabled Iran to improve its own capabilities by studying and then replicating those tactics.
The NSA is specifically concerned that Iran’s cyberweapons will become increasingly potent and sophisticated by virtue of learning from the attacks that have been launched against that country. “Iran’s destructive cyber attack against Saudi Aramco in August 2012, during which data was destroyed on tens of thousands of computers, was the first such attack NSA has observed from this adversary,” the NSA document states. “Iran, having been a victim of a similar cyber attack against its own oil industry in April 2012, has demonstrated a clear ability to learn from the capabilities and actions of others.”
The document was provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and was prepared in connection with a planned meeting with Government Communications Headquarters, the British surveillance agency. The document references joint surveillance successes such as “support to policymakers during the multiple rounds of P5 plus 1 negotiations,” referring to the ongoing talks between the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Germany and Iran to forge an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program.
The document suggests that Iran has become a much more formidable cyberforce by learning from the viruses injected into its systems—attacks which have been linked back to the United States and Israel.
In June 2012, The New York Times reported that from “his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.” As part of that plan, the U.S. and Israel jointly unleashed the Stuxnet virus on Iranian nuclear facilities, but a programming error “allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet.” Israel also deployed a second virus, called Flame, against Iran.
Read the rest via NSA Claims Iran Learned from Western Cyberattacks – The Intercept.