Foreign Economic Espionage in Cyberspace/Iran
Iran: An Increasing Cyber ThreatEdit
Iranian cyber activities are often focused on Middle Eastern adversaries, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel; however, in 2017 Iran also targeted U.S. networks. A subset of this Iranian cyber activity aggressively targeted U.S. technologies with high value to the Iranian government. The loss of sensitive information and technologies not only presents a significant threat to U.S. national security. It also enables Tehran to develop advanced technologies to boost domestic economic growth, modernize its military forces, and increase its foreign sales. Examples of recent Iranian cyber activities include the following:
- The Iranian hacker group Rocket Kitten consistently targets U.S. defense firms, likely enabling Tehran to improve its already robust missile and space programs with proprietary and sensitive U.S. military technology.
- Iranian hackers target U.S. aerospace and civil aviation firms by using various website exploitation, spearphishing, credential harvesting, and social engineering techniques.
- The OilRig hacker group, which historically focuses on Saudi Arabia, has increased its targeting of U.S. financial institutions and information technology companies.
- The Iranian hacker group APT33 has targeted energy sector companies as part of Iran’s national priorities for improving its petrochemical production and technology.
- Iranian hackers have targeted U.S. academic institutions, stealing valuable intellectual property and data.
We believe that Iran will continue working to penetrate U.S. networks for economic or industrial espionage purposes. Iran’s economy—still driven heavily by petroleum revenue—will depend on growth in nonoil industries and we expect Iran will continue to exploit cyberspace to gain advantages in these industries. Iran will remain committed to using its cyber capabilities to attain key economic goals, primarily by continuing to steal intellectual property, in an effort to narrow the science and technology gap between Iran and Western countries.