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New York Times: U.S. Hacked Iran To Prevent Oil Tanker Attacks

The United States hacked and wiped out computer systems and a database used by an Iranian paramilitary group to plan attacks on oil tankers, the New York Times reports, citing U.S. officials.

According to the report, the attack took place in June and Iran did not retaliate. It coincided with President Donald Trump’s calling off an air strike, which was planned in response to Iran downing a U.S. drone over its territory.

Iran and the U.S. have been locked in a cyber conflict for a while now, but both sides are careful not to go over the top when the conflict would be classified as a war, the New York Times source said.

They added that not everyone in Washington was certain the attack was a good decision. Some skeptics, according to the sources, believe the attack may have inadvertently provided information to the Iranian side about the United States’ hacking abilities. That’s information they would not have been able to glean into otherwise.

“Iran is a sophisticated actor. They will look at what happened,” the New York Times quoted a retired major general and former director of intelligence for the U.S. Central Command, as saying. “Russia, China, Iran and even North Korea would all be able to see how they were penetrated,” Mark Quantock added.

Another problem is that the vulnerability that allowed the attack was closed once the Iranians found the breach, which means U.S. intelligence will no longer have access to a potential channel of information.

The cyber conflict is part of the wider conflict between the U.S. and Iran that has stayed out of the public eye unlike their openly hostile exchanged regarding attacks in the Persian Gulf earlier this year which the U.S. immediately blamed on Iran and Iran denied.

According to the New York Times sources, the effects of the cyberattack were not expected to be permanent but, they added, Iran was still struggling to recover the data lost in the attack.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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