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Iranian hackers have laid the foundation for cyberattacks aimed at U.S. companies and infrastructure, as well as other countries in Europe and the Middle East, say U.S. officials.
According to an NBC News report, the officials say that Iran has positioned cyber weapons to attack water plants and electrical grids along with technology and health care companies.
While officials were careful to explain that no specific attack is expected at this time, there is evidence that Iran could be gearing up launch a cyber offensive against the U.S. and other countries in the future, an outlook backed up by recent remarks from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
“The warning lights are blinking red again,” Coats said last week. “Today the digital infrastructure that serves the country is literally under attack.”
Coats said he believes Russia to be the biggest threat to U.S. digital systems, but he also named Iran as well as China and North Korea as other potential adversaries.
But a spokesperson for Iran at the United Nations denied that any cyberattacks were being planned, and accuses the U.S. of using the issue as a pretense for its own potential attacks.
“The U.S. is the most belligerent cyber attacker of any nation in the world, repeatedly attacking military and civilian targets across the world including in Iran,” the spokesperson, Alireza Miryousefi, claimed in a statement, adding that Iran's “cyber activities are defensive in nature and necessary for our country's protection.”
The news comes as the Trump administration takes up a more hostile tone against Iran, withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear deal signed by former President Barack Obama and restoring sanctions.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also said that the U.S. is planning to impose sanctions on Iran with the aim of showing that “its malign behavior is unacceptable and has a real high cost for them.”
Meanwhile, some lawmakers are concerned that the aggressive stance of the Trump administration against Iran could place the U.S. on the “verge of blundering into another unnecessary war,” as Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) argued earlier this month.