The Washington Times is reporting that cybersecurity experts will testify before Congress today on the high probability that the Iranian government is engaged in building a cyber offensive force geared towards attacks against critical U.S. infrastructure targets.
The targeted systems may include those that control communications, power distribution, and water treatment facilities, among others. The Washington Times received the prepared testimony prior to two House Homeland Security subcommittee hearings examining the growing threat posed by Iran.
“'Elements of the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps] have openly sought to pull hackers into the fold' of a religiously motivated cyberarmy, according to Frank J. Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University," the article states.
Cullifo also believes another Iranian hacker militia called the Basij, “are paid to do cyber work on behalf of the regime, [and] provide much of the manpower for Iran’s cyber-operations.”
Cullifo will also testify that due to the veritable “arms bazaar of cyberweapons” available on the black market, potential adversaries “adversaries do not need capabilities, just intent and cash."
Experts believe Iran has made the development of the cyber militias a high priority in advance of a possible conventional military conflict with Israel and perhaps even the U.S.
“Over the past three years, the Iranian regime has invested heavily in both defensive and offensive capabilities in cyberspace,” testimony from Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, states.
The initiative is largely thought to be in response to the Stuxnet virus attacks which caused severe damage to Iran's nuclear enrichment program and reportedly set back the nation's nuclear program by as much as several years.
Stuxnet is a highly sophisticated designer-virus that wreaks havoc on systems which provide operations control for infrastructure and production networks, and leading theories indicate that the malware was probably produced to stifle Iran's nuclear warhead ambitions.
Early in 2011, Fox News reported that Brigadier Gen. Gholamreza Jalali, leader of Iran's Passive Defense Organization, said the Iranian military was preparing “to fight our enemies with abundant power in cyberspace and Internet warfare.”
Former members of Iran's military forces confirmed that there is a concerted effort to gain a cyber offensive capability.
“There are many true believers in Iran who are highly educated and very savvy with computers. Cyberwarfare is cheap, effective and doesn’t necessarily cause fatalities. It makes much more sense for not-so-wealthy nation states to build up cyber warfare capability rather than investing in missiles and warships,” Fox quoted Reza Kahlili, a former member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, as saying.
While elements of the U.S. government and military are taking proactive steps on cybersecurity, Berman will further testify that he is concerned that no one is specifically “tasked with comprehensively addressing the Iranian cyberwarfare threat.”
“The U.S. government, in other words, has not yet even begun to get ready for cyberwar with Iran."