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January 18, 2013

Iran Strengthens Cyber Capabilities Following Stuxnet

By Shankar Pandiath, TMCnet Contributor

General William Shelton, the head of the US Air Force Space Command, has revealed that the U.S. is aware of the fact that Iran has seriously improved its cyber capabilities following the Stuxnet incident.

It was widely reported that the U.S. and Israel collectively developed the Stuxnet worm, which destroyed centrifuges at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility in 2010.

Experts have historically estimated that the virus set back Iran’s nuclear program by close to two years.

In the summer of 2012, The New York Times reported that Stuxnet was actually a joint sabotage project put together by the U.S. and Israel against Iran. Of course, the U.S. has never officially admitted being involved.

However, according to the Times, some experts are skeptical; they say Iran’s uranium enrichment program has recovered and the country now has enough fuel for five or more weapons.

Now, the tables have turned. The U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) had claimed that Iran orchestrated cyber-attacks on American financial institutions. They believe Iran is behind the distributed denial-of-service attacks launched by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters against banks.

Iran has denied the accusations and accuses the United States of trying to discredit the country, stating that its nuclear program is aimed only at power generation and medical research.

This week, a senior Iranian commander was quoted as saying that Iran could disrupt enemy communication systems as part of its growing cyber warfare capabilities.

General William Shelton declined to comment about Iran's ability to disrupt U.S. government computer networks, but said Tehran had clearly increased its efforts in that arena after the 2010 incident. General Shelton said the Air Force expected orders in the oming months to expand its cyber workforce of about 6,000 by 1,000 people, and is expecting more funding as well.

"The Iranian situation is difficult to talk about. It's clear that the Natanz [nuclear facility] 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," Shelton said, cited by

"There are things that you can get from a computer network that in the past were very hard to collect and had to be done through human sources," he said, adding that with access to the so-called "right networks" and the "right code," the U.S. military would also be able to cause physical damage without using a bomb or missile.

In response to Stuxnet and such attacks, Iran has launched a cyber-defense headquarters tasked with preventing computer worms from breaking into or stealing data from the country’s maximum security networks, including nuclear facilities, power plants, data centers and banks.

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Edited by Braden Becker
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