The U.S. Cyber Command has caused considerable damage to Iran’s cyber capabilities with a retaliatory strike after the Islamic Republic shot down an American drone. The June 20th attack brought down a database used by its Revolutionary Guard Corps to target ships in the Persian Gulf. According to reports, Iran has yet to restore some military communication networks linked to the database or recover all of the data lost in the attack.
The June 20 strike carried out hours after Iran shot down a U.S. Navy RQ-4A Global Hawk drone. It is believed that an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps surface-to-air missile was fired from near Goruk, Iran to take out the drone. In response, the U.S. wiped out a critical database used by Iran’s paramilitary arm to plot attacks against shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf.
According to reports, no tankers have been targeted in significant covert attacks since the June 20 cyberoperation. Iran did seize the British oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz in mid-July. The week before, Iran attempted to seize another British oil tanker, but was rebuffed after a British warship approached.
The United States and Iran have long been involved in an undeclared cyberconflict. According to sources with knowledge of the matter, American cyberoperations are designed to change Iran’s behavior without initiating a broader conflict or prompting retaliation. The Pentagon has not publicly acknowledged the U.S. Cyber Command’s strike. Elissa Smith, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in a statement, “As a matter of policy and for operational security, we do not discuss cyberspace operations, intelligence, or planning.”
The sources have said that the White House judged the strike as a proportional response to the downing of the drone and that President Trump signed off on the strike. This not the first major operation executed by the U.S. Cyber Command. Last year, the agency disrupted efforts by a Russian entity to foster discontent among American voters during the 2018 midterm elections using Internet trolls.