Rep. Mike Rogers said today that Iran may pose the highest risk of a destructive cyber attack on U.S. critical infrastructure because its leaders are irrational. Although Russia and China are conducting large-scale cyber espionage campaigns, he explained, Iran has fewer qualms about launching a destructive attack.
"You have nation-states like Iran who are developing this capability, and they're not a rational actor when it comes to trying to disrupt or cause a catastrophic attack to our U.S. economy," the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said during a speech Wednesday reintroducing his Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, better known as CISPA.
Rogers said that Iran had already displayed its willingness to wreak havoc abroad in the attacks last August against the Saudi Aramco oil company and the Qatari gas firm RasGas, which wiped the data from 30,000 computers and kept employees off email for more than a week.
The U.S. government has yet to name a culprit in those attacks, but Rogers said that, based on his conversations with private sector cyber security analysts, he is "99.9 percent sure" that Iran was behind them.
"That's a new level of capability," said Rogers. "They have obviously aggressively stepped up their campaign."
He then pointed to last fall's denial of service attacks against U.S. banks as also being the work of Iranian cyber operators, though he acknowledged those attacks were far less sophisticated and damaging.
"Most people believe that was a probing action, they're trying to find deficiencies in our systems to find a better way to come back and cause some catastrophic disruption," Rogers said. "You can imagine how devastating it would be, not just getting into that system but actually breaking that system, manipulating and changing data, and destroying data. Devastating. That could bankrupt a company."
Rogers said that Russia and China would be unlikely to attack the United States in peacetime, but that Iran is a different story.
"I think they're eager and ready to ramp up their actions against the United States," he said to reporters after his speech. "Here's a country that's feeling isolated. Sanctions are hurting badly. You saw them reach out and strike Aramco. This is the same country that tried to kill the Saudi ambassador here in Washington DC. This is not a country that's going to make a rational decision about attacks of this nature."
John Reed reports on the frontiers of cyber war and the latest in military technology for Killer Apps.