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Iranian Cyber-Attackers Hacked New York Dam Control System in 2013

Iranian hackers infiltrated the control system of a New York dam in 2013, raising concerns about America’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks, The Wall Street Journal reported (Google link) on Sunday.

The Bowman Avenue Dam in Rye—located about 20 miles from New York City—is used to control flooding. The breach reportedly occurred as Iranian hackers launched a cyber-attack campaign against American financial institutions.

The incident at the New York dam was a wake-up call for U.S. officials, demonstrating that Iran had greater digital-warfare capability than believed and could inflict real-world damage, according to people familiar with the matter. At a congressional hearing in February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called Iranian hackers “motivated and unpredictable cyber actors.” Iranian officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Concerns stem from the fact that many industrial systems connected to the internet are old and have not been designed to deter cyber-attacks. Little has been done to protect these systems from infiltration.

The Associated Press reported on Monday that Iranian hackers are targeting parts of America’s electrical infrastructure and stealing highly sensitive data, including “Mission Critical” power plant blueprints.

In How Iran and North Korea Became Cyber-Terror Buddies, which was published in the January 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Claudia Rosett highlighted the growing aggressiveness of Iran’s cyber-warfare program.

According to the Cylance report, Iran has become more aggressive with its own cyber-attacks in response to Stuxnet. Since at least the early 2000s, “Hacking campaigns sourced out of Iran” have been “nothing new.” But after Stuxnet, Iran appears to be more focused on retaliation. Its tactics are more wide-ranging and destructive, with a number of enhanced attacks in 2011 “serving as a warning, showcasing the rapid evolution of Iran’s hacking skills.”

By late 2012—just after North Korea and Iran signed their science and technology deal—Iranian hackers were targeting the online services of U.S. banks. They also attacked Israel so energetically that, in June 2013, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Iran of targeting Israel’s water, power, and banking systems with “non-stop attacks.” In September 2013, anonymous U.S. administration officials told the Wall Street Journal that Iran had “hacked unclassified Navy computers in recent weeks in an escalation of Iranian cyber-intrusions targeting the U.S. military.”

Five months later, Iran displayed its prowess in the Sands attack. Four months after that, North Korea made its initial threats against The Interview, followed by the wholesale attack on Sony.

[Photo: Cities of the World / YouTube ]