In 2014, Iranian hackers launched Operation Cleaver, targeting 16 countries, including the U.S., according to U.S. cybersecurity firm Cylance. The hackers targeted several government organizations and private companies involved in the transportation, energy, and medical sectors.
“It’s been this low-key cyber volleying back and forth at each other – It looks like somebody got tired of this and said ‘look I’m going to yank up this game’ to a different level,” said Ahlberg. “When we look at this and take apart this Yemen Cyber Army and really try to understand who they are … they look a lot like other Iranian actors.”
He added, “what we have seen here is the cyber activity turn into an information operation … it’s well-orchestrated to a degree where you’re saying this is not [just] a guy in the basement – this is something more.”
As the U.S. and other world powers negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program, Griffin points out that any sanction relief could have an impact on their cyber activities. “If we are rewarding them not just for this bad behavior, but really the worse behavior, the green light to escalate that is something I would be very concerned by.”
The whole use of cyber war is getting out of hand. The term war has a very specific, destructive sounding definition. However, cyber war does not afford the attackers the same level of physical destruction capabilities as, say, a 20-ton bomb.
The term cyber operations makes more sense, but it is nowhere near as sensationalist as the media enjoys so I fear we are stuck with hyperbole.