Downed Drone Proof of Secret War in Iran?

Iran steps up preparations for military conflict after a remarkably intact American RQ-170 Sentinel stealth reconnaissance drone is displayed on Iranian TV. But is the find proof of an impending invasion or just another clue to an effective covert war already being fought in Iran?

The evidence for a secret war is overwelming:

  • Stuxnet – Active since as early as 2006, destroyed more than 1,000 centrifuges in 2010
  • Duqu – Collected valuable information for future Stuxnet-like attacks and may have provided intel that led to several “mysterious explosions”
  • Some explosions targeted Iran’s Nuclear Scientists at their homes
  • An explosion at a secret missile base near Tehran killed the head of Iran’s long-range missile program along with 17 top members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard
  • And an explosion rocked the  uranium conversion plant in Isfahan

Cyber attacks, numerous explosions and now a stealth reconnaissance drone captured, all unrelated coincidences? I think not. Neither does a retired senior Israeli General:

“There aren’t many coincidences,” retired Major-General Giora Eiland told Israel’s army radio, noting that it was the second attack on an Iranian nuclear site in a month.

“When there are so many events, there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it’s the hand of God,” said Eiland, who is Israel’s former national security chief.

Iran hasn’t been completely silent in responding to these incidents. Several rockets struck near Israel’s border with Lebanon just hours after the explosion in Isfahan. And Iran has been increasing military production including shallow water submarines, presumably in preparation for an invasion.

Even the “US Virtual Iranian Embassy“, created to “reach out” to Iranians was blocked within hours of it’s launch.

Are you waiting for an attack on Iran by US and Israeli forces? The evidence is overwhelming, it has probably already been going on covertly for years.

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Israel Cyber Command Plans to Cripple Iran in Cyber Space

Britain’s The Sunday Times has recently reported that Israel has setup a military cyber command specifically to attack Iran. The move comes as senior officers become uncertain of the probability that a kinetic conventional attack could disable Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Israel must turn into a global cyber superpower,” said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The new unit will report directly to him. According to Foxnews the unit has already been active in attacking Iran:

The center, which has been set up under the auspices of military intelligence unit 8200 has already conducted a series of “soft” espionage missions, including hacking into Iran’s version of Facebook and other social networking sites.

Also, according to the article, Israel has two goals for the new cyber command. The first is to take out Iran’s military establishment and secondly to attack Iran’s civil infrastructure.

Though not known for certain, this could be the same unit that Israel created in May for cyber defense. The “National Cybernetic Taskforce” is an eighty member team led by a retired General to defend Israeli cyber space. Or it could also be a new team founded under Israel’s famous Unit 8200 that is focused solely on offensive  operations.

Either way, Israel is determined to be on the leading edge of cyber warfare. As Netanyahu told reporters in May, “The state of Israel will be a center for dealing with the cyber world.”

Did China create Stuxnet to Attack India’s Space Program?

At the end of September, cyberwar expert Jeffrey Carr made a very interesting observation that seems to have slipped under the radar.

In his Forbes Firewall post titled, “Did the Stuxnet Worm Kill India’s INSAT-4B Satellite?”, Jeffrey brought up an intriguing theory.

He mentioned that it could have been China, not Israel who created Stuxnet, and the intended target may not have been an Iranian nuclear power plant at all, but India’s space program.

According to the article, in July, India’s Direct-to-Home (DTH) TV Satellite INSAT-4B had a power glitch and shut down. When it did, it affected 70% of DTH customers. To remedy the situation, DTH customer satellite dishes were re-directed to the Chinese run ASIASAT-5 satellite.

The kicker is that India’s INSAT-4B was put in orbit by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The ISRO provides R&D for India’s Aerospace industry and space resource monitoring. Jeffrey found that the ISRO uses versions of the Siemens software that are susceptible to Stuxnet.

Why would China be interested in an ISRO satellite? China and India are currently locked in a space race. And from all indications it is just as heated as the America-Russian space race of the 60’s and 70’s. Both nations want to land an astronaut on the moon and India is aiming to get there 5 years sooner than China.

In a more recent interview on The Diplomat, Jeffrey was asked to expound why China might be the culprit.  He mentioned that China is one nation of a small few who had both the motive and the technology to create Stuxnet.

“The reason why is that if you look at the states that have been impacted—it has generally been those in Asia or Eurasia—what they have in common is that they are producers of key resources. It might be oil, iron ore, copper, gold—things that are critical to many states, but which are particularly critical to China right now”.

Jeffrey also believes that China is focusing heavily on offensive cyber weapons that could shutdown infrastructure of an attacker that heavily relies on technology like SCADA.

According to Carr, China is a booming technologic nation right now. They have about 1200 R&D Labs that are focusing on absorbing technologies from other countries. China and also Russia are making strong advances in cyber-attack and defense where America seems to be falling behind.

This correlates strongly with the FoxNews article that came out today, “U.S. Could Lose the SciTech Edge to China”, which stated:

We have to compete today against the Chinese and Indians who are graduating tens of thousands more very talented science, math and engineering graduates from their colleges.”

And,

The fastest-growing college majors in America as of 2007 were parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies according to the U.S. Department of Education.”

Interesting indeed…

Cyber Arms Intelligence Report for October 26th, 2010

Stuxnet and Wikileaks were the top news last week. Questions still abound as to who created Stuxnet. Many believe that it was Israel, but now some are saying that it could be China.

And the intended target was not an Iranian power plant, but India’s space program

The question remains though if Stuxnet attacks Windows based vulnerabilities, how is Iran even using the software, if Microsoft can’t export to Iran?

But what most experts will agree that the sophistication of Stuxnet fairly limits the country source of origin. Computer Security company Eset Security released an in-depth technical analysis (PDF format) of the cyber weapon called “Stuxnet Under the Microscope”.

Wikileaks does it again. But this time they released nearly 400,000 classified reports on the Iraq war. Wired.com had some great articles on the release. Superbombs and Secret Jails: What to Look for in WikiLeaks’ Iraq Docs talks about Iran’s involvement in the Iraq war. And thanks to Wikileaks, we now have proof that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction found in Iraq.

One would wonder how Wikileaks could get away with taunting the United States. In the past, Wikileaks used servers in a converted Swedish cold war nuclear bunker to host their data. But in a brazen move, recently used mirrors in not only Ireland and France, but also used Amazon.com in the US. The document release was not without incident though. According to one report, Wikileaks was hacked by a very skilled hacker prior to the publication.

Lastly, should cyber-attacks against a NATO nation trigger a physical response? If they are included in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty they could, according to a Miller-Mccune article. NATO countries will discuss this next month at its annual conference. I just hope they take Russian Col. Anatoly Tsyganok comments to heart when they do, “These attacks have been quite successful, and today the alliance has nothing to oppose Russia’s virtual attacks.

Other Top Stories from Around the Web:

Iranian Cyber Army providing botnet for rent
It appears the group of cyber attackers who recently went after Twitter and Baidu are running a for-rent botnet.

Google admits to accidentally collecting e-mails, URLs, passwords
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Federal government grapples with cybersecurity staff shortage
The US federal government is facing a severe shortage of cybersecurity staff, according to a panel of cybersecurity experts.

Cyber Crime and Information Warfare: A 30-Year History
What follows are some highlights in the 30-year history of hacking and information warfare.

Firesheep addon allows the clueless to hack Facebook, Twitter over Wi-Fi
Now any person, or idiot, can use Firesheep to scan local Wi-Fi networks and find users who are logged into Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Google, FourSquare, Dropbox, Hacker News, Windows Live, Cisco, Evernote, WordPress, Flickr, bit.ly and many other services.