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Iranian Hackers Probe US Infrastructure Targets 203 203

Taco Cowboy points out reports in The Register and The Jerusalem Post (along with a paywalled article at the WSJ) that say "[Iranian hackers are] responsible for a wave of computer attacks on U.S. corporations, with targets including oil, gas and electricity companies. Unlike the cyber incursions from China, the goal of the Iranian attacks is sabotage rather than espionage. The cyber attacks are seen as attempts to gain control of critical processing systems. The attacks on oil, gas and power firms have so far concentrated on accruing information on how their systems work – a likely first step in a co-ordinated campaign that would eventually result in attacks aimed at disrupting or destroying such infrastructure."
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Iranian Hackers Probe US Infrastructure Targets

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @01:02PM (#43842207)

    Iranian IPs are responsible for a wave of port scanning on US IP ranges.

  • So why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @01:08PM (#43842289)

    Why is it okay for the US to sponsor cyber attacks, but not the Iranians? If it is an act of war, then did Congress authorize the US act of war?

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @01:22PM (#43842451) Journal
    We have stopped maintaining our bridges and roads, and we have reduced infrastructure spending drastically. By the time you Iranians figure out how to destroy American infrastructure, there will be nothing left for you to destroy. Fools on you Iranians.
  • Re:Airgap? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Antipater (2053064) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @01:29PM (#43842533)
    Because people take network security about as seriously as they take nutrition. Everyone says they want to do the right thing, but then at the first sign of inconvenience they're back to their bad habits.
  • Re:So why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @01:48PM (#43842727)

    Why is it okay for the US to sponsor cyber attacks, but not the Iranians?

    I'm not going to get all philosophical as that's not my shtick. I'm not even going to say it's "okay" for us to do it and not them (did somebody actually say that?). As an American I'd rather the US be successful in its attacks and the "enemy" not. I don't pretend it's anything more than that.

    That doesn't mean I'm a bang the war drum type about Iran. However I'd rather they not get nuclear weapons. I'm not sure how far the US should go to prevent that (I'd certainly be opposed to a full blown war) but Stuxnet was a clever technique that didn't even hurt anyone. My attitude is "well done". I don't want Iran to be successful in a similar attack on the US. So far it seems they're only gathering intel, but the possibility of targeting our infrastructure is frightening. It's also potentially much more damaging than destroying some centrifuges.

  • Some questions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Okian Warrior (537106) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @01:51PM (#43842763) Homepage Journal

    Okay, some questions.

    Firstly, how do they know it was Iranian hackers? The linked article is the NYT reporting US officials as saying that the attacks came from Iran, and that the attacks could not be carried out without the regime's knowledge. Not a direct quote, btw - a paraphrasing of something a government official said, paraphrased by the reporter, and punched up by the editor for more impact.

    Yet the register first line reads: "Iranian hackers are launching state-sanctioned attacks on US energy firms and hope to sabotage critical infrastructure by targeting industrial control systems, according to American officials."

    There's a difference between attacks originating in Iran and attacks sponsored by the regime. Also, it's difficult at best to determine the origin of an attack - are they sure these attacks weren't proxied *through* Iran?

    Secondly, how do they know that the goal is sabotage, when no sabotage has actually occurred? How do they know that this isn't just some bot herders trying to find more spam outlets? Certainly "accruing information on how their systems work" sounds more like a port scan or a vulnerability scan - which would be the first step regardless of the intent.

    This is high-octane scare mongering. Be afraid, everyone! Don't use logic, let your emotions guide your opinions!!!

  • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @01:54PM (#43842795) Homepage Journal

    "We need to start this war with Iran. No one believes they have a bomb, and we've been saying they're 2 years away, since 1997. I know! Tell Cybercommand to "probe" US infrastructure, hopping from all the compromised router firmware, behind Iran's BGP space.

    Give the story to Jerusalem Post - from "official sources". Don't worry about "leak prosecutions". We'll reserve those for the nosy bastards who try and discover that this is how we operate."

  • Re:Some questions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tnk1 (899206) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @02:42PM (#43843241)

    Iran has some pretty strict Internet rules and monitoring is most certainly employed. While it could be random hackers inside Iran, the chances of them executing a long term project and not being noticed are slim to none. The proxy scenario seems also unlikely as an anonymous proxy service is another thing you don't run in Iran without someone noticing. I think it is entirely safe to say that they were Iranian, and that the government knew about it.

    As for the goal, presumably, the US government knows that the goal is sabotage by the selection of the materials targeted. If someone is downloading, say, information on security protocols and failure scenarios, you can pretty much bet that they aren't just doing that just because they are curious. Yes, perhaps there is room for doubt, but there are some things that some bored hacker isn't going to look for... isn't even going to know what to look for... without having experience. This is also a reason that it is probably Iranian government as well: they likely have experts who tell the hackers what they need to be looking for. Hackers, while smart, are not necessarily knowledgeable about infrastructure. They may know how to get into things, but they probably don't know what they are looking for once they are in.

    I agree that the ultimate outcome is in doubt: learning how to sabotage the US infrastructure is not the same as actually doing it. Just like testing nuclear weapons doesn't actually mean that you intend to use them.

    I also agree that releasing this information has an ulterior motive. It is PR for the agencies involved. In that sense, you have to take it with a grain of salt, but it doesn't mean it is fabricated or a scare tactic to cover an upcoming war. It's basically a department telling taxpayers that they need to continue funding them, or this could happen. A scare tactic, but for money. As much as I don't like that they do this, given how political that the budget process has become, it is probably understandable. It is also important to understand that, if these departments do their job, no one ever hears about them, because they generate no news. Sometimes, you need people to know what they are doing for the money that they pay you. This is likely what that is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @03:35PM (#43843703)

    You realize people can dislike Israel and their actions without disliking all Jews or the Jewish religion.

    Well when I get to dislike various Muslim nations without being accused of being anti-Islam, then we can have a discussion.
    In the meantime, most people are aware that religion and politics in Israel and most Islamic nations has a very weak line of separation. Why do you think they all hate each other so much? Hint- it's not about nationality, it's about religion and culture and it has been that way for several thousand years now.

  • Re:Give it up (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Issarlk (1429361) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @03:51PM (#43843849)
    But the USA are the good guys, it's normal they do this!
    The problem is the Iranian don't realise they are the bad guys ; I'm sure they are reasonable and would stop everything if they knew they were in the wrong.
  • by kilfarsnar (561956) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 @04:57PM (#43844445)
    My problem with Israel is their treatment of the Palestinians and their continued creation of illegal settlements. It has noting to do with their religion.

Gosh that takes me back... or is it forward? That's the trouble with time travel, you never can tell." -- Doctor Who, "Androids of Tara"

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