Iran embarks on $1b. cyber-warfare program

Program to boost Tehran's offensive, defensive capabilities; fearing cyber attacks, IDF establishes own cyber task force.

December 18, 2011 04:02
2 minute read.
Natanz nuclear facility, 300 km south of Tehran.

Natanz nuclear facility_311 reuters. (photo credit: STR New / Reuters)


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Tehran has embarked on an ambitious plan to boost its offensive and defensive cyber-warfare capabilities and is investing $1 billion in developing new technology and hiring new computer experts.

Iran has been the victim of a number of cyber attacks in recent years, some attributed to Israel. The most famous attack was by a virus called Stuxnet which is believed, at its prime, to have destroyed 1,000 centrifuges at the Natanz fuel enrichment facility by sabotaging their motors.

Iran says it arrests another CIA spy

Iran recently confirmed that a new virus called Duqu had been detected in its computer systems, although the extent of the damage is unknown. While Stuxnet was aimed at crippling industrial control systems and may have destroyed some of the centrifuges Iran uses to enrich uranium, experts say Duqu appeared designed to gather data to make it easier to launch future cyber attacks.

Last week, the Spanish-language TV network Univision aired a documentary which included secret footage of Iranian and Venezuelan diplomats being briefed on planned cyber attacks against the United States. The documentary claimed that the diplomats, based in Mexico, were involved in planning cyber attacks against US targets, including nuclear power plants.

Fearing cyber attacks, the Israeli government recently established a cyber task force that will be responsible for improving Israeli defenses and coordinating the development of new software and capabilities between local defense and hi-tech companies.

The IDF has also drafted a multi-year plan that is supposed to lead to a major boost in military capabilities over the coming five years.

“We are not where we want to be when it comes to our defenses,” a senior Israeli official said recently.

The IDF recently organized the units that deal with cyber-warfare, establishing offensive capabilities and operations within Military Intelligence’s Unit 8200 and defensive operations within a new division within the C4I Directorate.

The new division within the C4I Directorate is run by a colonel who took up his post over the summer. The officer is the former commander of Matzov, the unit that is responsible for protecting the IDF networks and a Hebrew acronym for “Center for Encryption and Information Security.”

Matzov writes the codes that encrypt IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Mossad networks, as well as mainframes in national corporations, such as the Israel Electrical Corp., Mekorot, the national water company, and Bezeq.

Chairman of the Israel Electric Corporation Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yiftach Ron- Tal recently warned that Israel was not adequately prepared to defend and confront the threat it faces to its military and civilian infrastructure.

“Israel is under a threat and we could already have experienced a silent infiltration that will be activated when the enemy wants,” Ron-Tal said. “We need to be prepared for the possibility that critical infrastructure will be paralyzed.”

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