Increased CyberWar Between the United States and Iran

Increased Cyberwar Between the United States and Iran

It is no secret that there have been tense international relations between the United States and Iran. In fact, this hostility goes back decades, arguably to the early 1950s with the rise of Mohammed Mossadegh, and the United States and Britain’s coup d’etat against him, where they not only took him out of power, but also re-installed the authoritarian Shah. From that point, there were further tensions in 1979 with the Iranian Revolution, as well as the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehren. Then, the United States backed Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. And in recent years, there have been tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.

But while the two governments are not directly fighting one another militarily, according to a New York Times report by David E. Sanger, in 2013, a National Security Agency document was written, in which the “document illustrates the striking acceleration of the use of cyberweapons by the United States and Iran against each other, both for spying and sabotage…”. The document specifically “detailed how the United States and Britain had worked together to contain the damage from “Iran’s discovery of computer network exploitation tools” — the building blocks of cyberweapons. That was more than two years after the Stuxnet worm attack by the United States and Israel severely damaged the computer networks at Tehran’s nuclear enrichment plant” (Sanger, 2015).

In addition, Sanger (2015) goes on to point out that

The document declares that American intercepts of voice or computer communications showed that three waves of attacks against American banks that began in August 2012 were launched by Iran “in retaliation to Western activities against Iran’s nuclear sector,” and added that “senior officials in the Iranian government are aware of these attacks.”

The main targets were the websites of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. By 2015 standards, those were relatively unsophisticated “denial of service” strikes that flooded the banks with data, so overloading them it was impossible for a time for customers to access their accounts. American officials — with the exception of then-Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, who was the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security committee — never publicly identified Iran as the culprit, though it was widely reported as the prime suspect.

Cyberwarfare has been a recent element in international relations. As technology is increasing, states are fighting one another through computer technology. And thus, cyber security is becoming an increasingly important national security issues for countries. And the United States, for example, is recognizing the importance of this cyber security, all the while admitting that they are behind in effective cyber security. For example, “The N.S.A.’s new director, Adm. Michael S. Rogers, has declared that his first task is to deter attacks by making it costly for countries like Russia, China and Iran to wage cyberwar. But a former senior intelligence official who looked at the two-page document prepared for General Alexander after it was published 10 days ago said it provided “more evidence of how far behind we are in figuring out how to deter attacks, and how to retaliate when we figured out who was behind them””  (Sanger, 2015).

The issue of cyberwarfare in international relations is one that is not expected to fade away as a theme in the discipline. As computers are becoming more advanced, and individuals and governments have the capabilities to disrupt other countries’ operations through computer viruses or through computer hacking, countries will continue to place more attention on their cybersecurity, to ensure that they are safe from these new types of threats.

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