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US cyber attack weakened Iran’s ability to track and target oil tankers

Iran is still trying to recover critical information that was destroyed in the June 20 attack and restart some of the computer systems that were taken offline

Washington and Tehran have long been involved in an undeclared cyber conflict, a confrontation carefully calibrated to remain in the grey zone between war and peace

THE US launched a secret cyber attack against Iran in June that destroyed a critical database used by the Islamic Republic’s paramilitary arm to plot attacks against oil tankers in the Middle East Gulf, the New York Times reported, citing senior American officials.

The database targeted in the cyber attacks helped Tehran choose which tankers to target and where, the report said.

No tankers have been targeted in significant covert attacks since the June 20 cyber operation, although Iran did take a UK-flagged tanker in retaliation for the detention of one of its own vessels.

Iran is still trying to recover critical information that was destroyed in the June 20 attack and restart some of the computer systems that were taken offline, including military communications networks, the report said, citing American officials.

Washington and Tehran have long been involved in an undeclared cyber conflict, a conflict carefully calibrated to remain in the grey zone between war and peace, the report said. 

The June 20 strike was a critical attack in that ongoing battle, officials told the paper, and it went forward even after US president Donald Trump called off a retaliatory airstrike that day after Iran shot down an American drone.

Iran has not escalated its attacks in response, continuing its cyber operations against the US government and American corporations at a steady rate, US government officials told the New York Times.

According to a former senior US intelligence official, Norman Roule, American cyber operations are designed to change Iran’s behaviour without initiating a broader conflict or prompting retaliation. Because they are rarely acknowledged publicly, he said, cyber strikes are much like covert operations.

Mr Roule added: “You need to ensure your adversary understands one message: The United States has enormous capabilities which they can never hope to match, and it would be best for all concerned if they simply stopped their offending actions.”

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