The United States has been watching Iran for cyber activity for some time now with a fear that cyber espionage and war tactics are getting even stronger. One Air Force commander is jumping on board with this concern, saying Iran in particular is a “force to be reckoned with.”
U.S. Air Force Space Command General William Shelton told Reuters he believes Iran was provoked by the Stuxnet attacks in 2010, and has been building up its cyber war tactics ever since. In order to prevent future attacks, Shelton explained that the Defense Department plans on expanding the number of civilian Air Force employees working on network security by 1,000. This adds to its current 6,000 employees, as Ars Technica notes.
Stuxnet, the virus that Shelton says may have caused Iran to increase its cyber warfare development, attacked the country’s Natanz nuclear plants in 2010. The virus attacks SCADA systems, or the computers that control industrial, physical equipment such as nuclear fueling infrastructure, all the way down to prison doors. The attacks did just that, and reportedly damaged the fueling equipment used in this nuclear facility.
It was later uncovered that Stuxnet was a joint effort between the United States and Israel.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of more of these attacks in a recent speech saying we can expect a “cyber Pearl Harbor” on our hands. He pointed out how connected devices, water supplies, and electrical grids can all be tampered with and that we need to prepare for cyber war in the future.