Iran accused Israel on Monday of launching a failed cyber attack against its communications systems.
“A regime whose record in using cyber weapons is clear from cases such as Stuxnet has tried this time to damage Iran’s communication infrastructure,” said Information Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi on his Twitter account.
He was referring to the Stuxnet virus, discovered in 2010 and believed to have been engineered by Israel and the United States, which damaged nuclear facilities in Iran.
Stuxnet affected the functioning of Iranian nuclear sites, infecting several thousands of computers and blocking centrifuges used for the enrichment of uranium.
Tehran accused Israel and the US of being at the origin of the computer viruses Stuxnet and Flame.
“Thanks to vigilance of the technical teams, they returned empty-handed. We will follow up this hostile action through international forums,” Jahromi said.
His deputy, Hamid Fattahi, said technical teams had intercepted multiple attempts to infiltrate their systems early on Monday, and had been “strongly warded off.”
— Cyber battlefront —
The US laid down plans several years ago to carry out a cyberattack against Iran if the nuclear peace talks failed, according to a documentary film released in 2016.
The plan, under the name Nitro Zeus, would have taken down Iran’s communication systems, air defenses and critical parts of its power grid. The plan was put on ice, however, following the nuclear deal signed between Iran and six major world powers in 2015.
Nitro Zeus was developed in the early years of the Obama presidency, according to the New York Times, and was a contingency plan in the event that Iran somehow attacked the US or one of its Middle East allies.
Although the first seeds of the cyberattack plan had been sown in the days of the Bush presidency, the plan made real progress under Obama, whose presidency began at a time when global concern over Iran’s nuclear program was at its peak.
The level of potential cooperation between the US and Israel in the event of such a plan being deployed is also unclear, the NYT says. The two sides clashed over Israel’s apparent unleashing of the Stuxnet worm in 2010, which particularly affected the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran.
The US suspected that Israel had produced its own version of the worm without testing it sufficiently, which led to its being exposed.