A former U.S. government official says American authorities firmly believe that Iranian hackers, likely supported by the Tehran government, were responsible for recent cyberattacks against oil and gas companies in the Persian Gulf and that they appeared to be in retaliation for the latest round of U.S. sanctions against the country.
The former official spoke to The Associated Press shortly before Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in a speech to business leaders in New York City Thursday night, became the first U.S. official to publicly acknowledge the computer-based assaults. He called them probably the most destructive cyberattacks the private sector has seen to date.
The cyberattacks hit Saudi Arabian state oil company Aramco and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas using a virus, known as Shamoon, which can spread through networked computers and ultimately wipes out files by overwriting them.
Senior defense officials said the information was declassified so that Panetta could make the public remarks. The officials added that the Pentagon is particularly concerned about the growing Iranian cyber capabilities, as well as the often discussed threats from China and Russia. The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the cyberthreats publicly.