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Iran, US Increase Cyberattacks Despite Nuclear Talks

A newly published report says Iran and the United States have increased cyberattacks, even as their top diplomats are working toward a nuclear agreement. The goal is to guarantee that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon, and to loosen Iran’s international sanctions.

The top U.S. and Iranian diplomats have been holding almost weekly meetings in an effort to finish an agreement on nuclear weapons. However, a website called The Intercept says that a “cyber war,” attacks against computer networks, is taking place behind the scenes. The website takes some of its information from secret U.S. government documents made public by Edward Snowden. It published details of a U.S. National Security Agency paper, written two years ago. The NSA paper calls for a stronger U.S. answer to Iran’s improved cyber warfare abilities.

The report says Iran learned from a virus called Stuxnet that was placed into its nuclear program. The virus allegedly was put there by U.S. and Israeli intelligence services in 2012.

David Stupples of City University, London is a cyber-warfare expert. He says the incident may have shown Iranian leaders the value of cyber warfare, compared to controversial, costly and dangerous nuclear weapons.

Iran has “now realized they have a much stronger weapon at hand,” Mr. Stupples said. He added that Iran “can continually attack and continually get payoffs from their activities quite cheaply.”

A basic cyberattack means a computer attacker closes down a website. Real problems, however, result when cyberattacks steal or destroy data. That is what happened in the attack on Sony Pictures last year, reportedly by North Korea.

A year ago, the head of the NSA, Admiral Mike Rogers, told Congress that cyber warfare is here to stay. “Clearly, cyber will be an element of almost any crisis we are going to see in the future,” said Admiral Rogers. He added that he believes cyber warfare was used in Ukraine, Syria and Georgia. “It increasingly is becoming a norm,” he said.

Cyberattacks are inexpensive, secret, and can be denied. Those are some of the reasons that could make them more appealing to terrorists and governments, instead of using conventional or nuclear weapons.

I’m Anne Ball.

VOA’s Al Pessin reported and wrote this story. Anne Ball wrote this story for Learning English. The editor was Mario Ritter.


Words in This Story

abilities n. (plural) the powers or skills to do something

allegedly adv. said to have happened but not yet proven

controversial adj. likely to produce controversy; relating to much discussion, disagreement, or argument

conventional adj. usual or traditional

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