Of the cyber space super powers, Iran is the first to attempt to do actual damage with their hacking, instead of just recon. There are two main cyber groups operating out of Iran, the Rocket Kittens and The Thinkers. It is speculated that Iran has gravitated towards cyber attacks because it allows them to “strike back” against sanctions and traditional military action.
In the beginning, Iran obtained surveillance equipment from China. This equipment allowed them to establish their own Supreme Council on Cyberspace in 2012. In 2012, they launched several attacks against American targets, including banks, a small dam, and over 40 Denial-of-Service attacks against the financial and banking sector. They attacks are continuing to this day.
Traditionally, cyber warfare has been for espionage or reconnaissance purposes, to gain intelligence, steal technology, or plant surveillance measures. Iran is the first country to conduct cyber warfare operations for the express purpose of causing as much damage to systems and infrastructure as possible. As such, the other cyber super powers (the United States included) need to step up their game in terms of defense and counter-operations. Security firms already exist that set up dummy networks to deceive and observe hackers, which is how we learned just how effective, and aggressive, Iran is. They [Iran] have been hailed as “the new China” when it comes to cyber warfare. Why focus on the cyber front, though? Because that’s the only way Iran can really fight back against the military might and the sanctions leveled against them. However, as these sanctions are being lifted, they’ll have to consider just what direction to take their cyber operations. Before reading these articles, I knew that Iran was active in cyberspace, but I had no idea to what degree. I was familiar with what you would call “traditional” cyber warfare, but it sounds like Iran is changing the face of cyber warfare, and forcing the other super powers to adapt at their pace. In my mind, this gives them an advantage that they appear to be capitalizing on. However, as previously stated, as sanctions run their course, they’ll have to choose their actions carefully, lest the international community renew those sanctions in response to their cyber attacks.