President Trump authorises cyber attack on Iran

Tensions have been escalating for weeks in the Gulf but Trump opted for digital rather than physical retaliation

Trump

The US launched a cyber attack with President Trump's approval on Iranian systems controlling rocket launches on Thursday in response to the middle eastern nation downing a US drone on the same day.

Trump allegedly planned a more conventional air strike on Iran instead of a cyber attack but when he apparently learned that it would result in the disproportionate loss of 150 lives, he went and approved a cyber attack that had been readied for weeks.

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The US President said on Saturday that in addition to the unmanned drone, Iran was also monitoring a US plane carrying 38 people but made the "very wise" decision to go for the drone instead.

The cyber attack disabled the weapon systems belonging to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a group which has been labelled a terrorist group by the Trump administration.

The attack follows escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf which saw the US attribute an attack on two oil tankers earlier this month to Iran. That accusation was based on surveillance footage its military captured and released which showed an Iranian military patrol boat had approached one of the two tankers to remove evidence of tampering with the tanker's hull.

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The US' National Security Agency has declined to comment on any matter relating to the current Iranian tensions and cyber attacks.

Iranian hackers have made attempts on US organisations in recent weeks, according to cyber defence companies. The finance and oil and gas sectors have been singled out as targets of spear-phishing email campaigns, according to CrowdStrike and FireEye, reproted the Guardian.

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"Both sides are desperate to know what the other side is thinking," said John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis at FireEye. "You can absolutely expect the regime to be leveraging every tool they have available to reduce the uncertainty about what's going to happen next, about what the US's next move will be."

As well as the cyber attack, Trump imposed further sanctions on Iran on Thursday night to take effect Monday morning. These supplement the already healthy amount of economic sanctions the US has placed on Iran since Trump abandoned Barack Obama's 2015 nuclear deal.

Earlier this month, Trump imposed more economic sanctions on Iran's Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company (PGPIC) because of its ties with the IRGC.

The US' allies have become increasingly annoyed by the number of sanctions placed on the country as foreign companies have become affected as a result. Oil shipments to countries have been halted while European nations attempt to devise workarounds to continue trading with Iran without violating US sanctions.

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