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Iran’s Cyber Threat Potential Great, U.S. General Says

January 17, 2013

Iran’s developing ability to launch cyber attacks will make it “a force to be reckoned with,” the head of the U.S. Air Force Space Command said.

General William Shelton said the Iranians are responding to an attack on the computer operating system that runs the uranium enrichment facilities in the country’s suspected nuclear-weapons program.

“It’s clear that the Natanz situation generated a reaction by them,” Shelton told reporters yesterday.

Iran’s main uranium enrichment site at Natanz was hit in 2010 by the Stuxnet computer virus. Last year U.S. officials told the New York Times that President Barack Obama had secretly ordered stepped-up cyber attacks on that country’s nuclear program.

U.S. intelligence officials and independent analysts such as Misha Glenny at Columbia University in New York have criticized the Obama White House for taking credit for the Stuxnet attack, warning that doing so would come back to haunt the administration.

Iran has denied responsibility for a spate of cyber attacks against online banking sites that accelerated in September. U.S. banks, including JP Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM:US), Bank of America Corp. (BAC:US), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC:US) and PNC Financial Services Group Inc. (PNC:US), have said some customers were having difficulty at times accessing their websites. Former Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, was among those who have said Iran may be at fault.

Iran’s Comment

“Iran respects international law and refrains from targeting other nations’ economic or financial institutions,” Iran’s mission to the United Nations said in a Jan. 11 statement, according to the a report on the website of the state run Press TV news channel.

Shelton said Iran poses a risk because of the “potential capabilities that they will develop over the years and the potential threat that will represent” to the U.S.

Now some of the U.S. banks are seeking assistance from a number of government agencies, including the National Security Agency, which oversees the government’s defensive and offensive cyber programs, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Treasury Department.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at

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