U.S. authorities are holding that Iranian-based hackers were responsible for recent cyber attacks that caused damage to Persian Gulf oil and gas companies, according to a former U.S. government official. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the cyber threat from Iran has increased as the soft war between the Islamic Republic and the Western world drags on. The cyber attacks are said to be an Iranian retaliation to international sanctions that the Ayatollah deems as an act of war.
Prior to Panetta’s remarks on Thursday, U.S. officials said nothing publicly about the Gulf attacks or the investigation, according to the Associated Press.
The recent cyber attacks hit the Saudi Arabian state oil company Aramco and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. They utilized a virus known as Shamoon.
Panetta said that Tehran has “undertaken a concerted effort to use cyberspace to its advantage.” the Pentagon has reportedly poured billions into cyber security.
“U.S. agencies have been assisting in the Gulf investigation and concluded that the level of resources needed to conduct the attack showed there was some degree of involvement by a nation state…” said a former U.S. official, according to the AP.
The information had been declassified last week in order that Panetta could make a public statement.
In the speech, Panetta said the “Shamoon virus replaced crucial system files at Aramco with the image of a burning U.S. flag, and also overwrote all data on the machine, rendering more than 30,000 computers useless and forcing them to be replaced. He said the Qatar attack was similar.” according to the newswire.
The Pentagon is investing upwards of $3 billion per year in cyber security.
“Our mission is to defend the nation. We defend. We deter. And if called upon, we take decisive action to protect our citizens,” Panetta said.
“These attacks mark a significant escalation of the cyber threat,” Panetta said. “And they have renewed concerns about still more destructive scenarios that could unfold.”
“We know of specific instances where intruders have successfully gained access to these control systems…We also know that they are seeking to create advanced tools to attack these systems and cause panic and destruction, and even the loss of life.” he said.
“Before September 11, 2001 the warning signs were there. We weren’t organized. We weren’t ready. And we suffered terribly for that lack of attention...We cannot let that happen again. This is a pre-9/11 moment.”
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)