Iranian hackers have carried out some of the most disruptive acts of digital sabotage of the last decade, wiping entire computer networks in waves of cyberattacks across the Middle East and occasionally even the US. But now one of Iran's most active hacker groups appears to have shifted focus. Rather than just standard IT networks, they're targeting the physical control systems used in electric utilities, manufacturing, and oil refineries. At the CyberwarCon conference in Arlington, Virginia, on Thursday, Microsoft security researcher Ned Moran plans to present new findings from the company's threat intelligence group that show a shift in the activity of the Iranian hacker group APT33, also known by the names Holmium, Refined Kitten, or Elfin. Microsoft has watched the group carry out so-called password-spraying attacks over the past year that try just a few common passwords across user accounts at tens of thousands of organizations.
Countries like China, Iran and Russia are known for strictly censoring what their citizens can see on the internet. These authoritarian governments do this to control their people and protect those in power. It can be very difficult, and often dangerous, to try to get around this, but a new tool looks like it could be the best way to beat censorship in these kinds of oppressive countries. Researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a kind of AI that they've named Geneva, which stands for "Genetic Evasion." This AI uses a kind of machine learning to automatically detect bugs and gaps in a country's censorship system so the user can view uncensored content.
Ayatollah Khamenei doubles down on Iran's commitment not to engage in talks with the United States; Trey Yingst reports. The drone was reportedly hit in the early morning at the port city of Mahshahr, which is in the oil-rich Khuzestan province and lies on the Persian Gulf. "The downed droned definitely belonged to a foreign country. Its wreckage has been recovered and is being investigated," the governor of Khuzestan, Gholamreza Shariati, said, according to the official IRNA news agency. He said the drone violated Iran's airspace but did not provide any additional information, including whether it was a military or civilian drone.
This past week, the Interior Department ordered the grounding of its drone fleet that was made in China or contained Chinese parts. This comes on the heels of similar actions taken by the Department of Homeland Security in May and the United States Army in 2017. While political pundits credit the ban to the Trump administration's policy initiatives against the Asian superpower, many cybersecurity analysts cite legitimate security concerns. As a result, there is a bipartisan bill pending, The American Security Drone Act of 2019, to ban all Federal agencies from using any Chinese-made aerial vehicles. As Senator Richard Blumenthal explains, "Like it or not, drones are our future. Without Congressional action, adversaries like China and Iran will use drone technology as tiny Trojan Horses to spy on our government, our critical infrastructure – even our hospitals and homes. This bill will ensure that we don't send China and others a gold-plated, flying invitation to steal our intellectual property, undermine our domestic technology, and spy on our communities."
There's an old saying that wars are easy to get into but hard to get out of. President Trump understands this, which is why he wisely resisted the temptation to launch a military strike against Iran after that nation launched a missile and drone attack last week against Saudi Arabian oil facilities. When he was running for president, Trump promised the American people he would not jump into endless conflicts in the greater Middle East, where thousands of members of the U.S. military have been killed and wounded in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fighting began in 2001 in Afghanistan and 2003 in Iraq and still continues in both countries. U.S. forces have also fought on a smaller scale in Syria to strike at terrorist targets.
Democratic presidential hopeful Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, said Thursday that she would re-enter the Iran nuclear deal and end sanctions in response to Iran's involvement in drone attack against Saudi Arabia oil facilities if she was president. "What I would do is, I would re-enter the Iran nuclear deal to prevent Iran from continuing to move forward in building a nuclear weapon that puts us and the world further at risk," Gabbard said on "The Story with Martha MacCallum." Every day that we don't do this, every day we continue down this failed strategy Iran gets closer and closer to a nuclear weapon. U.S. officials told Fox News on Tuesday that Iranian cruise missiles and drones were both used in the attack on the two Saudi Arabian oil facilities, and that they were fired from inside southwest Iran this past weekend. Gabbard called the attack a "retaliation" against "extreme sanctions."
Senior national security officials from across the government met on Thursday to refine a list of potential targets to strike in Iran, should President Trump order a military retaliation for missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil fields last weekend, officials said. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are to present the updated options to Mr. Trump at a National Security Council meeting scheduled for Friday, a senior American official said. In advance of being presented with the newest set of options, Mr. Trump has sent different signals on his intentions. He has threatened to order "the ultimate option" of a strike on Iran to punish the nation for its behavior, but also has made clear his continued opposition to ordering the United States into another war in the Middle East. The Pentagon is advocating military strikes that one senior official described as at the lower end of options.
On Fox Nation's "Deep Dive," a panel of experts analyzed the world response to last weekend's crippling attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure and explained why the Saudi government seems hesitant to explicitly accuse Iran of carrying out the strikes. "If you look at the sophistication of the attack, the ranges of the weapons used, and how this was perpetrated, it can only be Iran really," said Lt. Col. Dakota Wood, who is a retired Marine and Senior Research Fellow for Defense Program at the Heritage Foundation. At a press conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, the Saudis displayed broken and burned drones and pieces of a cruise missile that military spokesman Col. Turki Al-Malki identified as Iranian weapons collected after the attack. Tehran has denied that it carried out the attacks and Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility. Speaking from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Iran is responsible for the attack, telling reporters that the strike was "an act of war."
Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, says the United States is considering a "suite of options" in response to Iran's alleged responsibility for drone attack on Saudi Arabia's oil fields. "We have a commander-in-chief and he has said he does not want war with Iran and the Saudi Arabians have said the same thing," Risch said on "The Story with Martha MacCallum Wednesday. "The unfortunate part of all of this is Iran continues to push the envelope." U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday doubled down on accusations Iran is responsible for the weekend bombing on Saudi Arabia's oil facilities, telling reporters that the strike was "an act of war." Earlier President Trump tweeted that he had ordered Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to "substantially increase sanctions" on Iran. Risch said the Iranians are "notorious for making bad judgments" and said that's what is happening with the current situation. "[Trump] doesn't want war with Iran.