Trump’s Nuclear Deal Retreat to Cost Republicans ‘Another’ Iranian Hack

Iran is one of the biggest cyber threats that exists to the United States, especially after US President Donald Trump decided to walk out of the former’s Nuclear deal. However, what’s alarming is the rate at which the two nation’s have entered a cyber conflict that grew massive since its beginning in 2011. The history of Iran-US cyber conflict is the reason that speculations are emerging about the Republicans becoming a target of the Iranian cyber army’s fury. Considering, whoever turned their back against the nuclear deal faced their share of consequences, but on Iran’s favourite playground − the cyberspace.

Iran Hiring Cyber Mercenaries

According to Recorded Future, a global real-time cyber threat intelligence provider, the Iranian cyber army has already begun recruiting cyber mercenaries from online security forums to prepare a team capable of executing immediate hacking campaigns. The news came a day after security experts from around the world warned US about the possibility of Iranian hackers using their cyber expertise to retaliate to Trump’s nuclear deal retreat.

During 2012 and 2014, the US financial sector became the victim of several DDoS attacks targeted at them with the intent of directing an overwhelming amount of Internet traffic on the aimed computers. The attack was a part of Iran’s retaliation on the U.S. sanctions and cyber attack on its nuclear programme with the support of Israeli intelligence.

Moreover, the most common targets of Iranian hackers have generally been those belonging to or associated to the Republican Party, a part of which is the current US President, Donald Trump. The first destructive cyber attack to have taken place against a Republican was in 2013, when the Sands Casino was attacked with what was known as a highly destructive malware called ‘Wiper’, which crippled about thousands of the servers and computers across the network. The malware attack on Sands Casino was led by Iranian hackers in response to a statement made by the casino’s Chief Executive Officer and its largest shareholder, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who is also one of the biggest Republican donors. Reportedly, in October 2013, Adelson, while addressing to spectators at the Manhattan campus of Yeshiva University, said that ‘Iran should be bombed to get the country to abandon its own nuclear program.’

Besides targeting members or affiliates of GOP, the Iranian hackers are also accused of hacking critical infrastructures in the country like, the New York dam, US banks, private organizations, foreign universities. Nevertheless, government hacking has till date remained a sensitive matter amongst which the incident of Iran’s government-backed hackers’ meddling in the US elections has been the most magnanimous so far. The hackers were also warned recently in what is known to be a retaliation by the US government. The image of a U.S. flag with a warning: “Don’t mess with our elections”, recently appeared across several Iranian and Russian computer screens during the hack allegedly led by the US.

Iran: US’ Constant Cyber Enemy

In addition to having strained political relations, Iran and US, also gradually entered a cyber conflict. The conflict began in 2011, right after a US-Israel led Intelligence operation called the “Operation Olympic Games” attacked one of Iran’s Uranium enrichment facilities, Natanz, with ‘Stuxnet’ malware.

Several intelligence point at the fact that the malware was launched via a joint operation led by the US and Israel. Gary Samore, the White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destructions, said during a PBS program, “we’re glad they [the Iranians] are having trouble with their centrifuge machine and that we — the US and its allies — are doing everything we can to make sure that we complicate matters for them”. This, not only subtly hinted at the US’ involvement in attacking Iran with Stuxnet malware, but also confirmed Israel’s affiliation in the same.

Months after the Stuxnet malware attacked Iran’s enrichment Uranium facility, an Israeli video surfaced, showing the malware as ‘one of its successes’. The video was from the retirement party of the Head of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Gabi Ashkenazi, where he made an apparent acknowledgment of ‘Stuxnet malware’ being one of ‘his operational successes’, while he was the Chief of Staff at the IDF.

Republicans to Pay for Trump’s Withdrawal

US President, Donald Trump, turning down Iran’s nuclear deal just added fuel to the fire. Though initially the cyber conflict remained low-key, it still existed and affected many significant targets. The entities who bore the impact of these attacks majorly included the accounts of thousands of professors from hundreds of US and foreign universities, private organizations and government entities, besides the previous attacks led on several U.S. banks resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in businesses as an attempt to shutoff the New York dam. The New York dam hacking reports technically prove how the attackers were Iranians, considering the hacking timestamp matched with that of Iran’s time zone, use of DDoS attacks, and attack on financial industry, explaining the similarity in the pattern of attack.

Even though, both the nations gradually caught up with the pace of attacking each other on the cyberspace, Iran remained a step ahead by leading its cyber forces and proxies to launch DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks, spear phishing, web defacement, and data manipulation against the US and its allied banks, government offices, and military communication networks. According to security experts, President Trump’s recent decision of withdrawing the US from Iran’s nuclear deal is expected to contribute to more catastrophic cyber attacks on the Republicans, aka GOP, by an enraged Iranian cyber army backed by its government who are infuriated by Trump’s long-time disapproval of the nuclear deal and approval of more and more sanctions on the already, economically destabilized nation.

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