US planned cyber-attacks to stop Iran nuclear programme

US planned cyber-attacks to stop Iran nuclear programme
If diplomatic efforts failed, the Pentagon had a plan for a major cyber-attack on Tehran in its pocket.
2 min read
17 February, 2016
The US and Israel had previously launched a cyber attack against Iranian nuclear facilities [Getty]

The US had planned a major cyber-attack against Iran to stop its nuclear programme in case diplomatic efforts failed, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The Times cited information from a forthcoming documentary in addition to intelligence and military officials, to reveal that the plan - code-named "Nitro Zeus" - was put in place during the early years of the Obama administration.

It aimed to launch cyber-attacks to cripple Iranian air defences, communications systems and parts of the country's power grid, but was put on hold after a nuclear deal was reached last summer.

According to the paper, the plan was to ensure President Barack Obama had an alternative to all-out war, in case Iran attacked the US or one of its regional allies.

A separate plan by US intelligence agencies to use cyber-attacks to disable Iran's Fordo nuclear enrichment facility was also developed, according to the paper.

The US and Israel had reportedly previously launched a huge-cyber attack against Iranian nuclear facilities, under the code-name "Olympic Games". The attack destroyed scores of centrifuges and temporarily disrupted the operation of the Natanz enrichment facility.

Iran also accuses Israel - and the US - for being responsible for the assassination of a number of Iranian nuclear scientists who were killed in highly professional operations.

According to the Times, the existence of Nitro Zeus was revealed during the making of the documentary film Zero Days, which is to be screened at the Berlin Film Festival on Wednesday, and which deals with the nuclear tensions between Iran and the West and the employment of cyber-attacks.

Meanwhile, reports have re-emerged of a massive leak of details from a national Turkish police server.

A "hacktivist" aligned with Anonymous is thought to have posted the 17.8Gb dataset, allegedly stolen from the General Directorate of Security, onto peer-to-peer file-sharing services.

While some reports claim it was the work of the hacker collective, it has been suggested that the data was copied from police servers as long ago as 2010, by software engineers working on a national ID database.

It has reportedly been used by lawyers' offices for research, but has now become freely available to the public.