U.S. Cyber Attack Failed, Iran Says; Navy Commander Warns Drone Downing 'Can Be Repeated'

'They try hard, but have not carried out a successful attack,' minister says

Khordad 15, a new surface-to-air missile battery at an undisclosed location in Iran, June 9, 2019.
AP

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U.S. cyberattacks against Iranian targets have not been successful, Iran's telecoms minister said on Monday, within days of reports that the Pentagon had launched a long-planned cyberattack to disable his country's rocket launch systems. 

Tension runs high between longtime foes Iran and the United States after U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he called off a military strike to retaliate for the Middle East nation's downing of an unmanned U.S. drone.

"They try hard, but have not carried out a successful attack," Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran's minister for information and communications technology, said on social network Twitter.

"Media asked if the claimed cyberattacks against Iran are true," he said. "Last year we neutralized 33 million attacks with the (national) firewall." 

In addition, Iran described the shooting down of the drone as a "firm response" to the United States and warned it could be repeated.

"Everyone saw the downing of the unmanned drone," navy commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi was quoted as saying by the Tasnim news agency. "I can assure you that this firm response can be repeated, and the enemy knows it." 

On Thursday, the Pentagon launched a long-planned cyberattack, Yahoo News said, citing former intelligence officials. The cyber strike disabled Iranian rocket launch systems, the Washington Post said on Saturday.

Two officials told The Associated Press that the strikes were conducted with approval from U.S. President Donald Trump. A third official confirmed the broad outlines of the strike. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the operation.  

Azari Jahromi called attacks on Iranian computer networks "cyber-terrorism", referring to Stuxnet, the first publicly known example of a virus used to attack industrial machinery, which targeted Iran's nuclear facilities in November 2007. 

Stuxnet, widely believed to have been developed by the United States and Israel, was discovered in 2010 after it was used to attack a uranium enrichment facility in the Iranian city of Natanz. 

Washington accused Tehran of stepping up cyberattacks.

Officials have detected a rise in "malicious cyber activity" directed at the United States by people tied to the Iranian government, Chris Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity agency, said on Saturday on Twitter.

Krebs said the agency has been working with the intelligence community and cybersecurity partners to monitor Iranian cyber activity and ensure the U.S. and its allies are safe.

"What might start as an account compromise, where you think you might just lose data, can quickly become a situation where you've lost your whole network," Krebs said.

The National Security Agency would not discuss Iranian cyber actions specifically, but said in a statement to the AP on Friday that "there have been serious issues with malicious Iranian cyber actions in the past."

"In these times of heightened tensions, it is appropriate for everyone to be alert to signs of Iranian aggression in cyberspace and ensure appropriate defenses are in place," the NSA said.