Is Iran is the new China? FBI warning suggests it's not far off

Confirms scale of Operation Cleaver attacks

The FBI has sent a formal warning to US energy, defence and education organisations to be on the lookout for targeted Iranian cyberattacks, Reuters has reported.

Flagged as confidential, probably because it goes into detail about the techniques used, the 'Flash' document offers advice on combatting yet another sophisticated state-backed cyberattack campaign to add to the suspected Chinese, Russian and North Korean ones some of the firms will already be battling.

According to the brief details offered by Reuters, the FBI urged affected businesses to contact them.

Iranian attacks on US firms are nothing new but news of the latest campaign confirms the warning of the same attacks last week by security consultancy Cylance, which dubbed them 'Operation Cleaver'.

What is striking about the Cylance revelation is the scale and relative sophistication of the Iranian attacks, which suggest the country has upgraded its cyber capabilities beyond simpler DDoS disruption attacks it acquired a name for from 2012 onwards. A FiireEye report from earlier this year suggested as much.

Cylance's report quoted one official who rated Iran as nearing China's capability in terms of sophistication while being "closer to the Russians in terms of swagger."

That amounted to a Tehran-based team of programmers with satellites in Canada, the UK and The Netherlands and a desire to target not only the US but many other Middle-Eastern and European countries. Cleaver dates back several years which suggests that the country's surveillance capabilities have been under-rated until now.

Iranian hackers have been connected to a long series of attacks on foreign targets, including a series by the 'Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters on Saudi Arabian oil industry, the US banking sector and, more recently reported, on casino firm, Las Vegas Sands Corp earlier in 2014.

An unnamed Iranian was also connected to the infamous certificate authority attacks on DigiNotar and Comodo in 2011.

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