Iran Seen as the New No. 1 Global Cyber Threat

After 10 years of viewing the world's most populous country as the leading global threat to information security, security specialists need to realize that "Iran is the new China," warns a new report from the threat detection company Cylance. Released Tuesday, the "Operation Cleaver" report sums up a two-year investigation by the Irvine, California-based company that found a skillful and well-funded hacker team based in Iran has launched numerous data extraction attacks against electric utilities, oil and gas companies, airports and other key infrastructure services in at least 16 countries.

"Hacking attacks sourced out of Iran are nothing new," the report said, pointing to the security industry's tracking of actors such as the Iranian Cyber Army since the early 2000s. However, that activity has become larger and more sophisticated in recent years, with the Iran-based "Operation Cleaver" targeting a much broader range of organizations in numerous countries around the world.

"Operation Cleaver has...focused on a wide array of targets, including energy producers and utilities, commercial airlines and airports, military intelligence, aerospace, hospitals, and even universities -- with only ten of the targets based in the United States," the report said. "Such broad targeting demonstrates to the world that Iran is no longer content to retaliate against the US and Israel alone. They have bigger intentions: to position themselves to impact critical infrastructure globally."

Iran's 'Rising Expertise'

Cylance said it released its report "sooner than we would have liked" because it believed it was important to expose to the world "Iran's rising expertise."

"The evidence and indicators of compromise we provide in this report will allow potentially unaware victims to detect and eliminate Cleaver's incursions into their networks," the report said.

We reached out to Cylance security researcher Justin Clarke to learn more about how his company first identified Operation Cleaver and...

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