In response to the United States killing General Qassem Soleimani, Iran is expected to increase its cyberattacks on the US even as fears of an escalation between both the countries has reportedly receded. According to reports, Iran may not get involved in a military confrontation but a cyber-attack threat remains a huge possibility.
A former Intelligence Pentagon official, Jon Bateman said that a cyberattack is the easiest way for Iran to cause damage to the US. Bateman was of the opinion that no one should believe that the conflict is over, adding that Iran has the required cyber tools that it can use against the United States or its allies.
The former Intelligence official further added that the cyberattacks could include attacks on infrastructure such as electric utilities, malware that can be used to completely erase data from a corporate entity or a government establishment. Bateman also said that Iran spread controversial messages on social media platforms ahead of the 2020 Presidential elections.
Bateman said that cyber tools are considered to be a part of a country's military arsenal now. adding that Iran is aware of the fact that the US may respond to any attack with the help of conventional retaliatory or cyber methods. He was of the opinion that the United States might not reciprocate with a cyberattack, adding that it could go on to impose sanctions or carry out a military offensive. Bateman said Iran is also aware of US's Stuxnet malware which is believed to have been an operation aimed to cause damage to Iran's capabilities.
The Department of Homeland Security released a bulletin warning of a potential cyber threat by Iran.
The bulletin read, "Previous homeland-based plots have included, among other things, scouting and planning against infrastructure targets and cyber-enabled attacks against a range of U.S.-based targets".
"Iran maintains a robust cyber program and can execute cyberattacks against the United States. Iran is capable, at a minimum, of carrying out attacks with temporary disruptive effects against critical infrastructure in the United States", the bulletin read
While Iran and the US have been at loggerheads for quite some time, their relationship took a turn for the worst after a US airstrike on January 3 killed Quds Force chief General Soleimani, considered by many as the second most powerful figure in Iran.
The Pentagon confirmed that the January 3 attack at the Baghdad International Airport was carried out at the direction of President Donald Trump. Along with General Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis- the deputy commander of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), an Iran-backed umbrella organization comprising several militias was also killed.