U.S. Cyber Command on Thursday conducted online attacks against an Iranian intelligence group that U.S. officials believe helped plan the attacks against oil tankers in recent weeks, according to people briefed on the operation.
According to Gulf news, the intrusion occurred the same day President Donald Trump called off a strike on Iranian targets such as radar and missile batteries. But the online operation was allowed to go forward because it was intended to be below the threshold of armed conflict - using the same shadow tactics that Iran has deployed.
Multiple computer systems were targeted, according to people briefed on the operations, including those believed to have been used by an Iranian intelligence group that helped plan the tanker attacks.
An additional breach, according to one person briefed on the operations, targeted other computer systems that control Iranian missile launches.
The online operation was first reported Friday by Yahoo News. Few details are known, but the breach was meant to take the Iranian intelligence group offline for a time, similar to one that temporarily took down Russia's Internet Research Agency in November during and immediately after the U.S. midterm elections
Tensions have escalated since the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran last year and began a policy of "maximum pressure." Iran has since been hit by multiple rounds of sanctions. Tensions spiked this past week after Iran shot down an unmanned U.S. drone - an incident that nearly led to a U.S. military strike against Iran on Thursday evening.