The United States carried out a secret cyber operation against Iran in the wake of the Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi Aramco’s oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh blame on Tehran, two US officials have told Reuters.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the operation took place in late September and took aim at Tehran’s ability to spread “propaganda.”
One of the officials said the strike affected physical hardware, but did not provide further details.
The attack highlights how President Donald Trump’s administration has been trying to counter what it sees as Iranian aggression without spiraling into a broader conflict.
Asked about Reuters reporting on Wednesday, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said: “They must have dreamt it,” Fars news agency reported.
The US strike appears more limited than other such operations against Iran this year after the downing of an American drone in June and an attack by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on oil tankers in the Gulf in May.
The Pentagon declined to comment about the cyber strike.
“As a matter of policy and for operational security, we do not discuss cyberspace operations, intelligence, or planning,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith.
The impact of the attack, if any, could take months to determine, but cyber strikes are seen as a less-provocative option below the threshold of war.
“You can do damage without killing people or blowing things up; it adds an option to the toolkit that we didn’t have before and our willingness to use it is important,” said James Lewis, a cyber expert with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Lewis added that it may not be possible to deter Iranian behavior with even conventional military strikes.