Increasing Cyber Attacks on US Intelligence Stations

23 October 2012 | 13:57 Code : 1908280 Interview General category
An interview with Dr. Maakaan Eidipour, an expert on communications and international relations
Increasing Cyber Attacks on US Intelligence Stations


When did the cyber attacks in the US begin?

The issue of cyber attacks is a phenomenon which was born in the past decade. The strong dependence of government systems and different industries on the internet and virtual networks has threatened various systems of countries. This issue became more serious when some individuals succeeded in entering US security systems. This incident happened during the final years of the 1990s, when they succeeded in entering security systems of the Pentagon. Of course, it should be noted that no special incident happened at that time and there was no particular reaction. But, gradually following the Wikileaks affair, some people came to believe that cyber issues must be paid attention to. At one time, the Israelis also planned cyber attacks against Bushehr’s nuclear facilities, and Iran planned responses to this threat.

The US has announced that, in recent cyber attacks, several American banks were hacked by some who are thought to be supported by Iran's government. Do these accusations have special meaning in international relations?

It must be confessed that these issues are not big incidents in the scene of international relations. It means that the accusation made by the US against Iran regarding the cyber attacks, is not an important issue, whether Iran succeeds in responding and/or the US takes action. Of course, it is possible that the system of that country might be disrupted for several hours, but in the context of confrontation between the two countries, the extent of damage is not very high, unless this disruption is irreparable in the long run. But such an incident has yet to happen.

How much progress has Iran made in the issue of cyber attacks?

Since a long time ago, Iran has been working on its cyber army, the main objective of which is military issues. In other words, great efforts are made to gain entry into military computers of rival countries, hacking guiding systems of planes and missiles and even communications between warships. Therefore, the first priority of Iran's cyber forces is to be able to enter these systems. Of course, the issue of retaliation is also considered due to attacks against Iran's nuclear facilities. 

Considering the point that you made with regard to change in the world of communications, the laws have also been changed. Have special laws been ratified in the international community to pursue these attacks?

Internet administrators and designers have a slogan which cannot be violated or proven otherwise and the slogan is: Those who design cyber space only provide services and do not direct it. Therefore, they believe they have no responsibility towards what happens in cyber space, thus, no one can be legally pursued in this regard. As a result, when the issue of Wikileaks went public, the US could not file any complaint against Julian Assange, because the Internet is considered as a major instrument for free access to information. In this space, no one can be questioned as to why he has given his opinion on an issue or published a statement. Of course, any country can file suit against an individual with regard to what he has done in cyber space within the framework of its own criminal laws. But, there is no tribunal to refer this matter to and file complaints regarding the issue of violations of the moral and/or virtual space of that country.

Will the increasing cyber attacks on US intelligence bases and continuing accusations against Tehran give excuses to the White House for a military attack in response to the claimed cyber attacks? 

A military attack does not need an excuse, for there could be thousands of reasons for such an action. I should reiterate that, for a military attack, if it is possible and the objective is determined, anything can be used as an excuse. Therefore, the threat of war is not influenced by these issues and if the US knew that problems would be solved by attacking Iran, it would certainly launch a military attack.

What are the legal procedures against these cyber attacks?

There are contradictions in the issue of cyber attacks, where the vulnerability of countries increases as technology becomes more developed. In the past, it was impossible to easily launch such attacks. Spies were sent to different countries to find codes and disrupt their systems. Therefore, these attacks had to be done physically. But today, any individual can easily do the same thing with no responsibility, for no claim can be proven. The most they can do is to find the IP of the computer from which the attack was launched, but at the same time they can’t prove who owns the computer. Thus, such vulnerability questions the credibility of international laws. As they launch cyber attacks against Iran, this action can be reciprocated. The Internet has special characteristics. Besides turning this space into a dominating system which has control over everything, it is, in fact, a system which is out of control. For example, al-Qaeda also communicates through the Internet, and Wikileaks was based on the Internet as well. Therefore, no matter how many limitations are imposed on this system, it cannot completely be controlled. It seems that both the countries and the major players will move towards limiting this virtual space. As it can be seen, China is a modern country, but its Internet has a special filtering system. It can be foreseen that other countries will gradually move towards the same direction. 

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