A recently disclosed document from the National Security Agency about the escalation of cyberattacks between the United States and Iran presents a chilling summary of how swiftly cyberwarfare developed from the first salvos against Iran’s nuclear program a few years ago to a full-fledged cyberarms race.
The attacks and counterattacks grew in scope, it shows, even as the United States and its Western partners tried to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, fostering the sense that doomsday bombs of the past were being supplanted by futuristic weapons far easier to develop and deploy, yet with enormous potential for destruction.
The N.S.A. document — prepared in April 2013 for the agency’s director — was revealed this month by The Intercept, a website that reports on the trove from the former N.S.A. contractor Edward Snowden. It confirmed for the first time that American cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities — presumably including the Israeli-American Stuxnet attack against Iranian computers that is regarded as the first shot of cyberwar — led Iran to retaliate in 2012 against American banks and the Saudi Arabian national oil company. Iran, the memo declared, “has demonstrated a clear ability to learn from the capabilities and actions of others” and would most likely continue the attacks.