Iranian Hackers Backed by Tehran Gov't Cyber Attacked US Dam in New York, US Gov't Will Announce

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 28, 2015.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses attendees during the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. headquarters in New York, September 28, 2015. | (Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Iran was responsible for a cyber attack on a dam located outside New York City, the U.S. Justice Department has determined.

An anonymous U.S. official told the Associated Press this week that the Justice Department is expected to issue an indictment soon over the cyber attack that targeted the Bowman Avenue Dam in Rye Brook, New York in 2013.

According to CNN, U.S. officials have been able to trace the attack to hackers working for the Iranian government. The incident was considered unsophisticated, as hackers were only able to gain control of some of the dam's technology through a cellular module, but did not have the power to shut off the dam or control its water supply.

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Still, the incident gained the attention of the White House and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned American companies to strengthen their systems to avoid such an assault.

A public announcement of Iran's involvement in the hacking incident could come as early as next month, a Washington insider added to CNN.

Leo Taddeo, chief security officer of the Cyptzone security company, told CNN that a public shaming of Iran by the U.S. could prove beneficial to American companies seeking to protect their infrastructure.

"We're always concerned when we see nation-state activity probing our infrastructure," Taddeo told the media outlet. "By naming and shaming, you might bring attention to the issue and bring additional resources to bear on it."

While federal officials have remained mum on Iran's involvement in the attack, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that the White House generally takes such issues very seriously.

"I would say broadly that we obviously take [...] seriously all such malicious activity in cyberspace," the spokesman said. "We're going to continue to use all the tools at our disposal to deter, detect, counter and mitigate that kind of activity."

Steve Grobman, chief technology officer for security at Intel Corp, told Reuters that the ability to hack structures like dams could prove detrimental to the U.S., adding that the size of the structure doesn't really matter.

 "We shouldn't look at the size of the particular body of water, dam or power distribution facility," Grobman said, adding "This is as a good example of how critical infrastructure is vulnerable to various actors."

News of the cyber hack comes after the Iranian government carried out missile tests this week that garnered criticism from the U.S., including Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

Power said in a statement that the tests, which were performed earlier this week in the Alborz mountain range, are "provocative and destabilizing."

Biden, who was visiting Israel this week, added that "a nuclear-armed Iran is an absolutely unacceptable threat to Israel, to the region and the United States. And I want to reiterate which I know people still doubt here. If in fact they break the deal, we will act."

Some have maintained that while Iran's ballistic missile tests did not violate the recent nuclear agreement reached with the U.S. and other powers, it likely violated the United Nations' policy on missile testing.

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