So much for turning over a new leaf with Iran.
Unnamed officials confirmed Nov. 4 that the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps breached the cyber defenses of White House officials, the Wall Street Journal reports. Social media accounts and emails were the primary targets and the attacks are presumed to be related to Iran’s arrest of Siamak Namazi, an Iranian-American energy executive.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
“[T]he U.S. officials said there has been a surge in such attacks coinciding with the arrest last month of Siamak Namazi, an energy industry executive and business consultant who has pushed for stronger U.S.-Iranian economic and diplomatic ties.
Obama administration personnel are among a larger group of people who have had their computer systems hacked in recent weeks, including journalists and academics.”
Specific targets of the alleged hack seem to be mainly Iranian policy officials, including agents of the Department of State Iranian Affairs Office and the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. (RELATED: Obama Admin. Will HELP Iran Modernize A Nuclear Reactor)
A senior administration official told Reuters Nov. 4 that they while they would not comment on specifics, they were “aware of certain reports involving Iran,” and they were “aware that hackers in Iran and elsewhere often use cyber attacks to gain information or make connections with targets of interest.” (RELATED: Iran Demands Censorship Tools For App, CEO Says Nah)
Siamak Namazi was a consultant based in the United Arab Emirate city of Dubai. According to a report by CBS News, while visiting a friend in Iran, Namazi was arrested under suspicion of espionage. The IRGC has a habit of detaining and interrogating Iranian businessmen with ties to foreign companies.
An unnamed Iranian diplomat told the Wall Street Journal that the country has been falsely accused of acts of aggression in the past and noted that Iran is the frequent victim of cyberattacks. (RELATED: Iran Violating UN Embargo By Shipping Weapons To Syria Via Russia)
By breaching social media accounts, a hacker has greater access to a larger pool of targets. “If the target’s Facebook account has 200 friends,” the Wall Street Journal reported stated, “and each of those had 200 friends, a skilled hacker could potentially gain access to 40,000 users—even if most of them aren’t actually associated with the original target.”
The technique is similar to a group of Iranian hackers known as Threat Group-2889. In a report released Oct. 8, the cybersecurity service provider Dell SecureWorks, identified a group of 25 Iranian hackers using fake LinkedIn profiles to obtain personal information from other users. (RELATED: Iranian Operatives Infiltrate LinkedIn With Fake Profiles, Looking To Snipe Info From Key US Personnel)
The alleged cyber attack is the most recent controversy in the tumultuous Iranian-American relationship. In addition to Namazi, Lebanese-American Nazar Zaka has also been arrested on charges of espionage. (RELATED: Think The Nuclear Deal Marked An Improvement In Relations With Iran? Think Again)
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