US energy agencies in Iranian hackers’ line of sight, says FBI

15 Dec 2014

Hackers from Iran, whether they be individuals or state-sponsored, could seriously threaten US energy agencies and national power supplies, according to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

A document revealed by Reuters from within the bureau has shown that hackers in Iran in particular could lead a series of attacks led by a sophisticated hacking operation that would not only aim their digital fury at energy agencies, but also educational and military operations.

An initial report by US security firm Cylance earlier this month had shown that over 50 institutions worldwide had been targets of a widespread hacking operation which they had dubbed ‘Operation Cleaver’ which saw 16 countries around the world including the US, the UK and China targeted across various industries.

Known as the ‘Flash’ report, the FBI’s internal discussion surrounding the potential Iranian threat explained the technical aspects of the malware used in Operation Cleaver with advice to be distributed to those most likely affected and how they can counteract any attempted entry into their systems.

No suggestion of state-sponsored activates

Speaking to Reuters, Cylance’s chief executive, Stuart McClure, says that the Flash report and details within it suggest that perhaps its own findings last week were not a full representation of the whole picture.

However, the report is quick to note that it does not hold the Iranian government responsible for the previous attacks, merely noting that the two IPs traced as being the sources of the attacks originated within Iran’s borders, yet no doubt behind closed doors there are suggestions of state involvement.

Obvious similarities arise with the Stuxnet virus that found its way into Iran’s nuclear facility back in 2010 that effectively set its programme back by almost a decade, and given its complexity, many security experts believing it to be a state-sponsored attack with speculation claiming the US had a role to play with the virus.

Nuclear power plant image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic