A strategic, secret cyberattack was carried out against Iran, wiping out a database that was used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. – an Iranian paramilitary force – to plan attacks against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. Since the attack, Iran has been struggling to recover the destroyed information and to get certain systems back online.
The cyberattack was launched on June 20. According to a report by the New York Times, a critical database was targeted and subsequently wiped out. Additionally, various computer systems, including military communication networks, were taken offline, US officials state.
The United States and Iran have been involved in a cyber conflict for some time, though most of the actions are not declared publicly.
Since the cyberattack, Iran has not escalated its cyberoperations against the US, though has continued with its efforts at a steady rate, according to US government officials.
American cyberoperations aim to influence Iran’s behavior while limiting the risk of a broader conflict, said former senior intelligence official Norman Roule.
“You need to ensure your adversary understands one message: The United States 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,” Roule stated.
While cyberoperations may not deter all future aggression, they can serve as a demonstration of strength, according to an official. They demonstrate that the US will respond to hostile acts and, ultimately, cause the target to incur costs or have to deal with various ramifications.
Under the Trump administration, Cyber Command has gained new congressional authorities. Additionally, an executive order provided the Defense Department with leeway regarding the planning and execution of strikes, allowing them to take a more aggressive stance.
The cyberattack was reportedly launched on the same day that President Donald Trump announced that a proposed military strike against Iran – retaliation for downing a US drone – was called off. Trump asserted that the strike would have been a disproportionate response for downing the aircraft.
Trump did state in June that a cyberoperation was underway, though the impact of the attack was not initially made public.