US Cyberattack After June Airstrike Cancellation Told Iran ‘War is Still On’

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Ransomware attacks global IT systems - Sputnik International
A new report reveals US Cyber Command attacked an Iranian shipping management database after US President Donald Trump called off the June 20 airstrikes on Iran following the downing of a US spy drone.

The June cyberattack hit a database used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to monitor oil tankers and shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf, and came just hours after Iran downed a US spy drone it said had violated Iranian airspace - something Washington denies.

The New York Times revealed Wednesday that the June 20 cyberattack was approved by Trump instead of an airstrike after he concluded it would not be “proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.” According to a US senior official who spoke to the Times, Iran has not yet been able to recover all of the communication networks lost in the cyberattack.

“I think it’s part of showing the Trump administration as being tough,” Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group Code Pink, told Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

“They’re [the US] not going to just sit back and let Iran get away with its ‘bad behavior.’ But it is interesting that they kind of bragged about it and seemed to say that it was such a devastating attack to Iran's Revolutionary Guard - which is the entity, by the way, that the US had put on the terrorist list not long ago,” Benjamin added.

“Let’s not put it in the context that Trump did a good thing by only doing this cyberattack, because I just want to put it in context of this being part of this manufactured crisis, totally manufactured by Trump himself,” Benjamin noted. “He might have divisions within his own staff, but he brought them in; he brought in [US National Security Advisor] John Bolton. He is the one who got out of the nuclear deal. He is the one that has called the Iran Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. He is the one that had recently ordered the aircraft carriers and bombers” to the Arabian Sea.

"They [the US] put these kind of cyberattacks in the gray zone … ‘We’re really not escalating … We’re just sending a message.’ But, of course, the message is a loud and clear message that the war is still on, and that it’s not just going to be squeezing the [Iranian] economy; it's going to be more than that. We are glad they [the US] didn’t retaliate in terms of military attack, but this is certainly part of the increasing conflict that might eventually lead us to that,” Benjamin added.

This is far from Washington’s first cyberattack against Iran. US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed that Stuxnet, a malware program responsible for causing grievous damage to Iran's nuclear program in 2010, was cooperatively developed by the US and Israel, Sputnik reported.

“It [Stuxnet] went so out of control that some say that it jeopardized the internet itself or had the potential to do that,” Benjamin explained.

In 2016, The New York Times also revealed that the US had plans for a cyberattack against Iranian air defense and telecommunication systems, as well as key power supply facilities. The plan, dubbed Nitro Zeus, was developed under the administration of US President Barack Obama.

“There was also this secret program called Nitro Zeus that was developed in the Obama years that was a cyber-sabotage that would have the ability to turn off Iran’s power grid. So, the US has been threatening Iran. And of course, that leaked out, and the Iranians knew that was part of the US capability. It was going to disable Iran’s air defenses, communication system and the entire power grid. The Iranians have known for years the US has been preparing for cyberwar with Iran,” Benjamin explained.

“Behind the scenes, we know that Iran, as well as China, Russia and North Korea - they are organizing themselves to respond to US cyber-sabotage. If they put out a press release about it, that would probably lead to the bombing strike that Trump didn’t do last time. But let’s not kid ourselves about how the US is not one-sided in its ability to carry these things out,” Benjamin added.

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