Federal agencies are bracing the potential of a huge onslaught of cyberattacks coming from Iran as retaliation because of America’s ongoing support for Israel during its conflict with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
U.S. officials have said that they aren’t worried just about the cyberattacks being targeted at Israel itself, but also at other nations that have supported Israel, such as the United States.
Politico reported this week that the attacks could potentially try to damage some critical infrastructure such as electricity or water, and likely would involve widespread efforts to post disinformation. The officials added that Iran might try to keep its fingerprints off all of the incidents, so it could use proxies to carry out the dirty work for them.
During a Tuesday testimony, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee:
“The cyber targeting of American interest and critical infrastructure that we already see conducted by Iran and non-state actors alike we can expect to get worse if the conflict expands, as will the threat of kinetic attacks.”
There’s no evidence of a direct or imminent attack being planned by Iran on the critical infrastructure systems in the U.S., multiple federal agencies have thus far stressed. That being said, they’re all on high alert, hoping that additional defenses that they created following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would have the ability to grow and adapt so they could accommodate multiple threats over multiple fronts.
Much like China and Russia do, Iran supports a talented network of cyber operators who are quite sophisticated and can tunnel into some governments systems or also disable full computer networks that companies have.
In the past, Iran has launched cyber attacks against the U.S., but federal agencies have said that the risk for another one is much greater now that the Gaza conflict is going on.
Iran has long been a funding source for groups that fight for Palestine, including Hamas itself. Drone attacks have even been launched in the Middle East by groups that are backed by Iran, and those sought to do damage to U.S. military forces serving in Syria and Iraq.
Michael Chertoff, who served under the Bush administration as the secretary of Homeland Security, told Politico:
“I could envision the possibility – we have to be prepared for this – of an effort to attack our critical infrastructure of our electric grid, our, for example, air traffic system, water.”
One official with DHS spoke anonymously last month to reporters, saying that in just the few days that followed Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7, DHS had a call with multiple federal agencies and with “almost 4,000 law enforcement officials around America to discuss the potential of cyber or physical attacks that could come from the Middle East conflict.
The official wouldn’t provide specific details about what the dangers could be. However, he said the agency was “actively monitoring” the ongoing situation in Gaza for legitimate threats to the homeland in the U.S.