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Secret U.S. cyber mission devastated Iran’s vessel attack capabilities, officials reveal

US Cyber Command

PortandTerminal.com, August 29, 2019

Unnamed U.S. officials have told the U.S. media that covert attacks on Iranian intelligence systems in June had such a devastating impact, that the country has yet to recover its capabilities.

WASHINGTON, DC – Recent American cyberattacks on an Iranian intelligence group were successful in reducing Iran’s capability to attack merchant shipping, American officials told the New York Times in a report published Monday. 

A secret cyberattack against Iran in June wiped out a critical database used by Iran’s paramilitary arm to plot attacks against oil tankers and degraded Tehran’s ability to covertly target shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf, at least temporarily, according to senior American officials.

Last June Iranian forces successfully downed a $110 million American RQ-4A military drone

President Donald Trump personally approved the U.S. Cyber Command operation, according to the Wall Street Journal. The action occurred on June 20, the same day that the president ordered and cancelled a strike on Iranian military positions in retaliation for the downing of an American drone.

“You need to ensure your adversary understands one message—the U.S. has enormous capabilities which they can never hope to match, and it would be best for all concerned if they simply stopped their offending actions,” 

Senior US Official

U.S. Cyber Command targeted an Iranian unit that has ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, officials said, and the cyberattack is believed to have degraded the IRGC’s ability to carry out attacks on shipping. No kinetic attacks on ships have been reported in the Gulf of Oman since the action occurred (the boarding and seizure of the tanker Stena Impero aside). 

The cyberattack led to renewed debate in the U.S. intelligence community over the value of sacrificing electronic access to the target’s networks in order to cause damage. Once an obvious cyberattack occurs, the target is likely to discover and shut down system vulnerabilities, closing off useful intelligence-gathering channels, officials told the Times.

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