Iranian Cyber Warfare Threat Assessment



The Iranian military consists of the Army, Air Force, Navy, and a Revolutionary Guard force. Iran's total active duty armed forces numbers 513,000, while reserves add another 350,000. The army is divided into 3 army headquarters with 4 armored divisions and 7 infantry divisions, 1 airborne brigade, 1 Special Forces division and now 1 cyber division. Their budget equates to between $95 and $100 per capita. This figure is lower than other Persian Gulf nations, and lower as a percentage of gross national product than all other Gulf States except the United Arab Emirates.

Education is considered a top priority in the development plans of the country, the authorities have endeavored to increase the primary education enrolment rate. In 2008 Iran had over 3.5 million students enrolled in universities. In the past two decades the education system and curricula have been reformed multiple times. Application of modern educational equipment and technologies such as information and communication technologies is developing considerably. The increased attention to higher education is producing the computer scientists and technology engineers necessary to have an advanced cyber weapons program.

Iran's Software Capability

Iran has the capacity to meet the large domestic demand for software and at the same time to become internationally competitive. The software sector itself, although strong in some areas, is not internationally competitive. The Iranian High Council of Informatics has categorized 543 informatics companies, and the software sector output is around $50 million although, once again, statistics are educated guesses rather than based on hard statistical evidence.

Iran's Asymmetric Capabilities

Iran has significant asymmetric warfare capabilities and poses an additional threat of proliferation. Iran's economic growth last year surpassed 7%. The expansion of their economy is funding research, development and acquisition of strategic military capabilities. They are intensely focused on developing their other means of military and asymmetrical weapons and tactics. Iran's military buildup poses direct threats to U.S. interests. It is believed that Iran has fairly advanced cyber-warfare weapons and offensive plans that include cyber attacks against a specific government web sites and infrastructure. Iran's cyber ambitions are ambitious and troubling. The following section represents and estimation of Iran's cyber warfare capabilities.

Estimated Cyber Capabilities

Iran Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)

  • Military Budget: $11.5 Billion USD

  • Global Rating in Cyber Capabilities: Top 5

  • Cyber Warfare Budget: $76 Million USD

  • Offensive Cyber Capabilities: 4.0 (1 = Low, 3 = Moderate and 5 = Significant)

Cyber Weapons Arsenal (In Order of Threat)

  1. Electromagnetic pulse weapons (non-nuclear)

  2. Compromised counterfeit computer software

  3. Wireless data communications jammers

  4. Computer viruses and worms

  5. Cyber data collection exploits

  6. Computer and networks reconnaissance tools

  7. Embedded Trojan time bombs (suspected)

Cyber Weapons Capabilities Rating Moderate to Advanced

Cyber Force Size 2,400

  • Reserves and Militia: Reserve with an estimated at 1,200

  • Broadband Connections: Less than 100,000

  • Hacker Community: Hackers have demonstrated their capabilities by successfully attacking numerous Israeli Web site and others. Cyber activists are common in Iran and very active.

Many world leaders as well as U.S. President Bush has publicly vowed that he would never "tolerate" a nuclear Iran. The question now is what about a cyber Iran?

-- Kevin Coleman

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