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Iran hacks White House officials

Iran hacks White House officials
PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK

President George W. Bush famously talked about the Axis of Evil, pointing to enemy regimes like North Korea, Iraq and Iran. America's strained relationships with those countries continues.

Yet, in recent months it has appeared that the U.S.'s relationship with Iran has been improving. In July, Iran agreed to new restrictions on its development of nuclear energy, which the White House says blocks its path to building nuclear weapons. Plus, just last week, Iran joined a multinational effort to end the civil war in Syria.

However, in Congress and elsewhere, there's a lingering distrust of Iran. As it turns out, with good reason. There has been a surge in cyberwarfare attacks from Iran that are targeting Obama Administration officials. These attacks are raising renewed concerns about the U.S.'s cyberdefense efforts.

White House officials say Iran has an army of hackers who've been trained by Russia. The White House this week confirmed that Iran's hackers have targeted Administration officials, including the State Department's Office of Iranian Affairs and its Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.

They also suggested the attacks are linked to the recent arrest of Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi. Namazi had been an outspoken proponent of the countries' recent nuclear accord, saying the sanctions that the U.S. had imposed on the country hurt everyday Iranians, not the country's leaders.

The attacks came from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and included hacking email accounts and social media accounts. Government employees and journalists were among those targeted.

The IRGC reportedly invaded Namazi's family's home in Tehran and confiscated his computers. It's unclear what they intend to do. However, White House officials say Iran has previously hacked email and social media accounts in attempts to build false legal cases against people.

With social media, for instance, they can find a friend of a friend of a friend who opposes Iran, and then pin that distant association to the person they arrested. For instance, if a person has 200 social media contacts, and each of those people have 200 contacts, Iran could build a contact list of 40,000 "friends" of Namazi.

No matter how far removed one of those 40,000 people is from him, their political statements on social media could be used against him. It's unclear why Iran arrested him.

Iranian officials with the United Nations deny that Iran was responsible for any cyberwarfare attacks against the U.S. Instead, they say Iran is the victim of these kinds of attacks.

In 2012, for instance, the New York Times reported that President Obama order cyberattacks on Iran's nuclear facilities. Those attacks had begun during George W. Bush's administration.

The more recent attacks by Iran may be related to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's recent statements that the nuclear accord is a ploy to undermine the country's Islamic government. He also says that any new U.S. sanctions against Iran would be a violation of the nuclear agreement.

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