Microsoft said among the targets were companies that work with the governments of the US, European Union and Israel to build satellite systems, drone technology and “military-grade radar”.
“Acquiring access to commercial satellite imagery and proprietary shipping plans and logs could help Iran replenish its developing satellite program,” Microsoft researchers wrote in a blog post on Monday.
Microsoft did not directly attribute the activity to any Iranian government organization, but said the hacking “supports the national interests” of Iran based on a number of factors, including hacking techniques linked to another Iranian group.
John Lambert, the head of the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center, told Granthshala that Microsoft this summer responded to a breach at the US financial services firm that detected the hacking activity.
Lambert said the goal of releasing information about the intrusion is now to help organizations prepare for follow-up infringement attempts. He added that hackers can use the stolen login information to break into the internal networks of targeted organizations.
According to Microsoft, suspected Iranian operatives tried to guess passwords at about 250 organizations, including unnamed American and Israeli defense firms and organizations operating in Persian Gulf ports. The tech firm said the hackers managed to break into “less than 20” of those organizations.
The maritime sector has long been of interest to Iran’s intelligence services and the country sits on the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a fifth of the world’s oil shipments pass.
“Given Iran’s past cyber and military attacks against shipping and maritime targets, Microsoft believes this activity increases the risk to companies in these areas,” the Washington state-based technology provider said.
While this activity appears to be focused on ports in the Persian Gulf, US maritime officials have also had to increase the security of their networks in response to threats.
“Shipping lanes are highways to the sea,” Lambert said. “And anything related to that is going to be in the crosshairs and subject to geopolitical dynamics.”
Credit : www.cnn.com