I am unable to confirm, or deny, that Nitro Zeus is still in operation.
, and I can neither confirm, nor deny that Ich Bin had a very small part in it.
WASHINGTON — On Thursday evening, U.S. Cyber Command launched a retaliatory digital strike against an Iranian spy group that supported last week’s limpet mine attacks on commercial ships, according to two former intelligence officials.
The group, which has ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, has over the past several years digitally tracked and targeted military and civilian ships passing through the economically important Strait of Hormuz, through which pass 17.4 million barrels of oil per day. Those capabilities, which have advanced over time, enabled attacks on vessels in the region for several years.
Though sources declined to provide any further details of the retaliatory cyber operation, the response highlights how the Persian Gulf has become a staging ground for escalating digital — as well as conventional — conflict, with both the United States and Iran trying to get the upper hand with cyber capabilities.
The retaliatory cyber response follows several weeks of mounting tension in the region, which appeared set to boil over after last week’s attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf. U.S. officials blamed Iran for the attacks and threatened to strike back if U.S. interests in the region were harmed. Then, on Thursday, Iranians shot down a $240 million U.S. military drone.
In response, President Trump initially authorized — but then decided against — targeted military strikes on Thursday night. He said in a series of tweets Friday morning that he pulled back before any missiles were launched when he learned 150 Iranians might die.
Meanwhile, multiple private U.S. cyber intelligence firms have reported attempts by Iranian hackers in recent weeks to infiltrate American organizations. U.S. officials told the Wall Street Journal they fear heightened escalations not only in physical space but in cyberspace as well.
The National Security Council declined to comment on the Iranian cyber group or the U.S. Cyber Command response. The National Security Agency, U.S. Central Command and the Navy all directed Yahoo News to U.S. Cyber Command for comment. Cyber Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Heather Babb, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told Yahoo News that “as a matter of policy and for operational security, we do not discuss cyberspace operations, intelligence or planning.”
Iran’s cyber capabilities are not the most sophisticated, at least compared to the United States’, but they are getting better. Tehran’s ability to gather information and unleash offensive operations have developed significantly in the last decade or so, particularly after Iranian centrifuges at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant were struck by a malicious computer worm created by U.S. and Israeli intelligence and first revealed in 2010.
“After the Stuxnet event, Iran really cranked up its capability,” said Gary Brown, who served as the first senior legal counsel for U.S. Cyber Command and is currently a professor on cyber law at the National Defense University. Brown cited Iran’s cyberattacks on global financial institutions, Saudi Aramco and the Sands Casino. While unfamiliar with current activities, Brown told Yahoo News that Cyber Command has long been interested in Iranian cyber capabilities and “undoubtedly they’re continuing to track them.”