The White House has issued a stern warning to Iran after a series of cyberattacks on American water authorities by Iranian-aligned hackers. The attacks, which occurred in October and November, disrupted the operations of several water systems in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, affecting millions of customers.
The White House said that the attacks were part of a broader campaign by Iran to undermine the US and its allies, and that they posed a serious threat to the nation’s critical infrastructure. The White House also urged federal officials to act swiftly and decisively to improve the cybersecurity of the water sector and prevent future attacks.
The White House’s cyber aide, Jake Sullivan, said in a statement that the recent Iran hack on the water system was “a call to tighten cybersecurity” and that the administration was working with state and local authorities to assess the impact and mitigate the risks. He also said that the administration was coordinating with other countries and international organizations to share information and best practices on countering cyber threats.
Sullivan added that Iran was responsible for “a long history of malign cyber activities” against the US and its interests, including targeting government agencies, businesses, media outlets, and individuals. He said that Iran’s cyberattacks were motivated by its “hostility towards the United States” and its “desire to destabilize our democracy”.
The White House’s statement came after a report by NBC News revealed that Iranian hackers had infiltrated several water systems in New York City using malware disguised as ransomware. The report said that the hackers had targeted at least four water systems in October: two in Queens, one in Brooklyn, and one in Manhattan. The report also said that some of the affected systems had paid ransoms to restore their operations.
The report cited experts who said that Iranian hackers had used sophisticated techniques to evade detection and gain access to sensitive data. They also said that Iranian hackers had exploited vulnerabilities in outdated software and hardware used by some water systems.
The report also quoted officials who said that Iran had been behind previous cyberattacks on US water systems dating back to 2016. They said that Iran had used similar methods to target other sectors such as energy, transportation, health care, and finance.
The White House’s statement echoed these findings and warned that Iran could launch more attacks on US water systems or other critical infrastructure at any time. It also urged Americans to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity or incidents related to cyberattacks.
The White House’s statement came amid heightened tensions between Iran and the US over Iran’s nuclear program. The Biden administration has been trying to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that was abandoned by former President Donald Trump in 2018. However, talks have stalled since June due to disagreements over sanctions relief and verification measures.
Iran has been accused of continuing its nuclear activities despite international pressure and sanctions. It has also been accused of supporting militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Houthis in Yemen, Shia militias in Iraq, Syria’s Assad regime, Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries in Africa, Venezuela’s Maduro regime against opposition leader Juan Guaido ,and Myanmar’s military junta against pro-democracy protesters.
Iran has denied these allegations and claimed that it is only pursuing peaceful nuclear energy for civilian purposes. It has also blamed Israel for sabotaging its nuclear facilities or conducting covert operations against it.