Many experts have said the launch of Stuxnet — the world’s first physically destructive cyberattack — opened a Pandora’s box.
“If you are in the glass house, you should not be the one initiating throwing rocks at each other,” Gregory Rattray, chief executive officer of Delta Risk, a cybersecurity company, said at a recent conference. “We will have rocks come back at us.”
The spate of denial-of-service assaults are “from their perspective, not an escalation. It’s retaliation,” said the intelligence official. “They really, really want to do something to us.”
Both Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Ministry of Intelligence and Security have been attempting attacks, the official said.
In the August attempt, Iran bombarded AT&T’s servers for two days, stopped for two days and then resumed the attack for two more days, the industry official said. The company was able to realign its servers to prevent the oil companies that use its service from experiencing a major loss of Web site access. But the industry official warned the next attack could be more severe.
The industry official said the affected oil companies were in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East that are taking part in an oil embargo. Some of the Web sites were temporarily disabled, but the impact was not major, the official said.
Both the industry official and the intelligence official said one of the Iranian targets has been Aramco, the Saudi Arabian national oil company. In one recent episode, the industry official said, Aramco’s Web sites were victims of a denial-of-service attack. In a more serious incident, a virus suspected of being used by Iran wiped out the hard drives of larger numbers of computers, knocking out part of the company’s system for as long as two weeks, the intelligence official said.
Describing the attacks on financial institutions, Lieberman said they are “a powerful example of our vulnerability. It’s a warning to us that if we take action against their nuclear weapons development that they have the capacity to strike back at us.
“We can’t be fearful,” Lieberman said. “Once the United States begins to get fearful of counter acts if we take action to protect our security, then we’re on the road to a much weaker and less free America.”