The Islamic Republic is taking steps to more rigorously protect the country’s missile program from cyberattacks, according to a new report published by a research group affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards.
The analysis, which is featured in the latest issue of the quarterly Defense and Security Studies published by Imam Hossein University, looks at ways to cope with cyberattacks on Iran’s missile program in the post-nuclear agreement era.
The report concedes that cyberattacks have inflicted some damage to Iran’s nuclear and military initiatives in the past, and sets out to prevent similar attacks in the future.
“There have been reports of cyberattacks using malware on vital infrastructure, and these attacks have done some damage, both technically and from an international point of view,” the report says.
The study acknowledges that Iran lacks the technological ability to manufacture semiconductor chips and consequently must buy them from abroad. Therefore, the report says, those in charge of protecting the infrastructure must take “security precautions” when using them, and recommends the establishment of a “supervisory system” to control chips acquired from foreign countries.
The “enemies” of the Islamic Republic, argues the report, “are trying to use any means to stop the progress of [Iran’s] missile program,” and use various means at their disposal. The report lists “structural infiltration,” “infrastructural infiltration” and “behavioral infiltration” as the three main avenues by which the “enemies” are trying to stop or disrupt Iran’s missile program.
In its discussion of “structural infiltration,” the report accuses the West of “trying to connect Iran’s problems to nuclear and missile issues.” It also claims that the West tries to “reduce the principles of Iran’s foreign policy into mere flexible tactics so that after destroying the core of these principles it can bend them towards its own ends.”
The authors of the report accuse the West of wanting to infiltrate “the infrastructure that lies at the level of, and is connected to, the missile field to gather information about missile experts and scientists.” To counter the “structural infiltration,” it argues, the first step must be to ascertain the “security qualifications” of experts and researchers in universities who work in the missile development field. In addition, the study recommends that “revolutionary, caring and expert managers should be employed in vital infrastructure fields” to counter western infiltration projects.
When discussing “infrastructural infiltration,” the report claims that the West has been engaged in a vast effort to launch cyberattacks on Iranian missile installations. It offers 13 recommendations to counter this, the first of which is to evaluate and test “hardware equipment in competent hardware security laboratories.” Other recommendations include isolating “sensitive systems at a level compatible with the level of their confidentiality” and ensuring that defense structures are “native-built.”
Irresolute and Ignorant “Experts”
On the subject of “behavioral infiltration,” the report says that the West has been trying “to deceive irresolute and ignorant experts into cooperating with the enemies.” The West also tries “to weaken the morale of missile experts and researchers by carrying out various psychological operations aimed at them or at their families.”
To cope with these efforts by the West, the report recommends that security policies be put in place and be communicated to individuals working in various missile-related fields so that they either refrain from using social networks or, if they do use them, that they do so “intelligently.” It also recommends that courses be provided for these individuals and their families “to elevate their awareness and enhance their jihadi morale.”
The 2015 nuclear agreement or, as it is officially known, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), relaxed tensions over Iran’s nuclear program. But almost immediately following its implementation, Iran’s missile program sparked new tensions, especially after Donald Trump took over as the president of the United States. American officials, and President Trump in particular, cite the missile program as an example of Iran’s “destabilizing and destructive” policies and demand for the Islamic Republic to be held accountable.
On January 12, 2018, Donald Trump waived nuclear-related sanctions on Iran as required under the JCPOA, but warned European allies and Congress it would be the last such waiver he signs if Iranian officials failed to agree to radical changes. He laid down conditions that had to be met in order for him to continue waiving sanctions, which included curtailing Iran’s ballistic missile development program, even though it did not fall under the terms of the JCPOA.
Islamic Republic officials have announced their refusal to yield to American demands and insist Iran will continue its missile program. Following Trump’s announcement, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, dismissed Trump’s declaration and policies as “desperate attempts to undermine a solid multilateral agreement.” Zarif tweeted: “JCPOA is not renegotiable: rather than repeating tired rhetoric, US must bring itself into full compliance – just like Iran.”
This war of words between Iran, which strives to keep its missile program, and the US, which threatens to abandon the JCPOA, has had at least one clear consequence. The uncertainty over the fate of the agreement and the tensions over the ballistic missile program continue to wreak significant havoc with the Iranian economy.
More on Iran’s Missile Program:
Iran Caught in “Missile Trap” After UN Report, January 2018
Iran's Missile Program: In the Footsteps of Saddam Hussein, November 2017
Is Iran Trying to Goad Trump?, September 2017
Of Missiles and Morals, April 2016
Khamenei goes Ballistic over Missile Tests, March 2016