Feeds

Iranian cyberwar chief shot dead. Revolutionary Guard: Assassination? Don't 'speculate'

Cyber War HQ loses boss in old-fashioned kinetic hit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The chief of Iranian cyber-security has been shot dead, sparking rumours that he was murdered in a targeted assassination.

The body of Mojtaba Ahmadi, commander of the Cyber War Headquarters, was found in isolated woodland near a town called Karaj, which is north-west of Tehran. He had been shot twice through the heart.

Despite rumours that Israel's intelligence unit, Mossad, was responsible for the killing – purportedly in order to cripple the Islamic Republic's cyber warfare capability – the country's Revolutionary Guard has cautioned against assuming the murder was an assassination.

“I could see two bullet wounds on his body and the extent of his injuries indicated that he had been assassinated from a close range with a pistol,” eyewitness told the website Alborz, according to the Telegraph.

Alborz is said to have links to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of the Iranian military dedicated to preserving the country's Islam-based government and judiciary.

Yet a statement from the Imam Hassan Mojtaba division of the Revolutionary Guard Corps warned against “prematurely [speculating] about the identity of those responsible for the killing.”

Iran's cyber warfare capabilities are not as much of an international concern as its nuclear weapons programme or its occasional threats to close the vital Strait of Hormuz, through which a large portion of the world's oil exports passes. However, if the latest killing turns out to be an assassination by foreign powers, it will mark the beginning of a new front in the clandestine war against the Islamic Republic.

Shashank Joshi, from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), was surprised to see the killing. Iran is not known for its fearsome cyber warriors, despite persistent rumours suggesting it played a significant role in training the Syrian Electronic Army, which was responsible for a number of cyber-attacks – mostly Twitter hijacks – on Western targets this year.

Joshi said: “Iran’s cyber attacks on Israel and elsewhere in the region are a rising threat and a growing threat, but it hasn’t yet been seen as a major and sustained onslaught, so it would be pretty novel and significant to take this step in the field of cyber-warfare at this time."

The modus operandi of the killing, which is thought to have been carried out by two men on motorcycles, is similar to previous assassinations against prominent Iranian officials.

Four Iranian scientists linked to the nuclear programme have been bumped off since 2007. Motorcycles have been linked to previous attacks. In at least one of the killings, a motorcyclist allegedly linked to Mossad stuck what was described as a "magnetic" bomb under a target's car; in another, a remote-controlled bomb attached to a motorcycle was detonated outside a man's home.

The head of Iran's ballistic missiles programme was also killed in an explosion at an Iranian base in 2011.

American officials have previously claimed Iranian hackers were responsible for attacks on oil, gas and power firms.

Iran and the US are engaged in new diplomatic efforts aimed at ending sanctions and stopping Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Any assassination could be seriously damaging to this nascent diplomacy. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
George Clooney, WikiLeaks' lawyer wife hand out burner phones to wedding guests
Day 4: 'News'-papers STILL rammed with Clooney nuptials
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.