The cyber threat from the Iranian Regime will only continue to grow and get more advanced, according to a leading political scientist.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an expert on Iran, wrote a piece for Arab News in which he explained how the cyber operations were not conducted by individuals but were a “key element” of the Regime’s foreign policy, national security and long-term strategic agenda.
This has been denied by the Regime but Rafizadeh cited Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s speech to students at universities funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Khamenei was quoted in state-run media outlets as saying: “You are the cyberwar agents and such a war requires Amman-like insight and Malik Ashtar-like resistance. Get yourself ready for such war wholeheartedly.”
The IRGC exploited tech-savvy Iranian youth by investing in their education and then recruiting them for malign and hostile operations targeting nations like the US, Saudi Arabia, Britain and Israel.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh wrote: “The Iranian regime has been relentless in finding various methods to subvert these nations through attacks on governmental institutions, the private sector and underlying infrastructures.”
Here are just some of the Regime’s recent attacks:
• Destructive cyberattacks against Saudi Arabia by Iranian hacking group Cadelle and Chafer
• Malicious Iranian software “Shamoon” attacks 15 Saudi governmental and non-governmental networks
• Iranian Regime launches cyber attack against Saudi oil producer Aramco, disabling 30,000 of its computers (roughly 75%) which took several months and a large amount of money to fix
• Attacks on US and South Korean aviation and energy companies by an Iranian hacking group
• Attacks on the email accounts of dozens of British MPs, including Prime Minister Theresa May.
The Regime cyber attacks do not just target foreign governments- as many government-instructed hackers from around the world do- they target all enemies of the Regime, like human rights activists and media companies.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh wrote: “The Iranian regime has also ratcheted up cyberspying efforts against Iranians living abroad, particularly those who are influential in informing foreign policy and criticizing the regime.”
Why is Iran investing in hacking?
Simply, it fits in with the Regime’s offensive line: attacking others while minimising retaliation.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh wrote: “Before the age of the internet, Tehran relied heavily on proxies, mercenaries and militias. Using indirect methods gives the ruling mullahs an advantage, and lowers the risk and cost. It helps the Iranian leaders dodge responsibility and accountability and provides them with the powerful tool of deniability on the international stage. Iran has never been held accountable when its puppets were caught attacking another nation, smuggling weapons, or violating international laws.”
This lack of accountability also helps Iran to avoid a potential war with the superpowers, which their military could not handle.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh wrote: “It is worth noting that many of Iran’s cyber attacks are aimed at the petrochemical industry, military and intelligence sectors in order to gain leverage, particularly over Saudi Arabia and the US. In addition, since the regime cannot obtain advanced weapons from the US, cyber spying helps the regime gain access to the technical data required to advance its military aviation capabilities.
The hackers normally steal data and then introduce malware to the system to delete all the data afterwards.”
With these benefits, the Iranian Regime is unlikely to stop its’ cyber warfare anytime soon, which will pose a serious threat to enemies of the Regime.