The Iranian government boosted its cyber capabilities in response to a cyber attack intended to sabotage its nuclear program in 2010, according to a report from Reuters citing a comment from General William Shelton, head of the U.S. Air Force Command that the move makes Iran a “”force to be reckoned with” in the future.
According to Reuters, General Shelton refused to provide further details regarding the capability of Iran to destroy the computer networks in the United States, however, he emphasized that Iran has clearly strengthened its efforts in the area after the cyber attack.
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In 2010, a sophisticated computer virus known as ‘Stuxnet’ destroyed the Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment facility. Security experts theorized that a government created the computer virus to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program, as opposed to their first theory that it was intended to steal industrial secrets. No government took responsibility for spreading the Stuxnet computer worm, but there were reports that it was a joint project of Israel and the United States.
In an interview with reporters, General Shelton said, “The Iranian situation is difficult to talk about. It’s clear that the Natanz situation generated reaction by them. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with, with the potential capabilities that they will develop over the years and the potential threat that will represent to the United States.”
According to a senior Iranian commander earlier this week, the Islamic Republic is capable of disrupting the communications system of its enemies and its capabilities in electronic warfare continues to grow.
Earlier this month, some government officials in the United States alleged Iran was responsible for the series of cyber attacks on the computer systems of banks in the country including Wells Fargo & Company, American International Group, Inc, Citigroup Inc, Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The computer networks of the banks experienced DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks, but no customer accounts were compromised.
Iranian officials denied the allegations that they orchestrated the cyber attacks on U.S. banks, but they spent their resources in improving their cyber defense capabilities after suffering a series of cyber attacks on industrial sites.
Iran also launched increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks against its other enemies such as Israel and other countries in the Gulf, amid pressures to stop its nuclear program. Iran denied that it is developing a nuclear weapon, stating that its nuclear program is intended for power generation and medical research.
Meanwhile, General Shelton said the U.S. Air Force would add 1,000 employees to its 6,000 cyber workforce. According to him, he is encouraging the leadership of the Air Force to increase funding for cyber operations, but the budget remained uncertain.