Iran’s Boosted Cyber Capabilities

In a hearing of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on “Iran’s Support for Terrorism Worldwide,” former chairman of the House’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence gave a statement that included the “increasing sophistication of Iran’s cyber program and capability to conduct cyber warfare.” The testimony on last Tuesday followed reports in February on Iranian hackers, who penetrated the Navy Marine Corps intranet over an extended period of time in 2013.

Building on a Foreign Policy report of February 18th, Former Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) elaborated on the Iranian regime’s awareness of U.S. vulnerabilities and its ambitions to be at eye level with its “enemies” in cyber. Correspondingly, he claimed that “[t]he very nature of cyber warfare and Iran’s increasing capability should be of major concern of the United States.”

The former chairman further discussed Iran’s ties with Russia, mentioning suspicions that Russia supports the development of Iranian cyber capabilities. He concluded his statement, which also covered Iran’s “global reach” through international terror networks, with the following finding:

Iran will view cyber warfare, a closer relationship with Russia, and the possibility of closer cooperation with other Islamist terror groups as potential opportunities to radically change the national security equation for the U.S. and our allies.



Hoekstra’s concluding remarks give a concise account of his assessment of Iran’s relevance to U.S. national security. The reason I quoted it directly is because, as for the cyber part, it exemplifies how Iran reportedly exploits the asymmetric nature of cyberspace. The list of previous cyber attacks, including hacks of U.S. financial institutions and the mentioned Navy network penetration, gives a taste of the possibilities for conventionally, i.e. “symmetrically” inferior adversaries to change the balance of power in their favor.

Regardless of Russia’s suspected involvement and the assumed ties of Iran with international terrorism, I think the developments in cyberspace are worth some of the attention that beforehand was exclusively directed at the nuclear issue.

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. She is the 2018-9 Editor in Chief of the Syracuse Law Review, as well as a member of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography


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