General William Shelton, America’s top cyber warfare official, has claimed to be increasingly worried about Iran’s cyber-warfare capabilities – which were built as a reaction to the US-sanctioned Stuxnet.
The general said Iran has improved its offensive and defensive cyber capabilities in response to a series of cyber attacks against the country’s industrial infrastructure and nuclear facilities.
Shelton issued the warning during a press briefing about his US Air Force division, that also includes America’s cyber-warfare units. He pointed out that Iran’s reaction to the Stuxnet attack on the Natanz uranium enrichment facility was to rapidly develop cyber warfare capabilities. In other words, by attacking Iran’s nuclear program, the joint US- Israeli operation sanctioned by US President Barack Obama practically drove Iran to create serious capabilities that can actually be viably employed, unlike nuclear warheads.
Iran’s improved cyber warfare capabilities were demonstrated when the country managed to thwart cyber attacks targeting oil terminals and other manufacturing plants, the BBC reports. In recent weeks US officials started to pin the blame for a series of attacks on US banks on Iran.
“They are going to be a force to be reckoned with,” said Gen Shelton, “with the potential capabilities that they will develop over the years and the potential threat that will represent to the United States”.
Iran has already made it clear that it has growing electronic warfare capabilities and that it plans to use them to disrupt “enemy communications systems,” which is a pretty broad definition by any means.
General Shelton pointed out that the US cyber force is about 6,000 strong, but it will add 1,000 more over the next 12 months. He said that cyber warfare forces could gather intelligence and carry out attacks in support of traditional military operations.