Usually, we live under the safe assumption that war is far from American shores. We think as long as there’s distance between us and the “bad guys”, it can’t affect us directly. Think again. Our credit cards are being targeted by unlikely groups.
Young Iranian computer gurus are being recruited by the Islamic Republic so that they might “fight our enemies with abundant power in cyberspace and internet warfare”. And they know the deepest cut for many Americans is in the wallet.
The Iranian Youth
Fox News reported Iran is “gearing up for a cyber war campaign” and it’s recruiting young Iranians who are savvy in social media, the security measures American banks incorporate and who are impressive hackers in their own rights. These young people are highly educated and would likely give many of the world’s top computer minds a run for their money, so to speak.
Even more dangerous is the fact many of these young people wouldn’t know who they were working for due to the nature of the “piecemeal” projects. One high-paid employee might work on a single piece of code and then transfer the project in its entirety to another well paid employee who works his own magic. The end result is a powerful application that many people worked on, even though they have no idea their work was included for collective destruction of American networks.
Some are saying even if these educated young people knew what their work would ultimately become, they might still agree to do it anyway. Some are already being paid up to $10,000 USD per month. This is not only impressive for any country, but for a country like Iran, a country not considered a wealthy one, it would likely be too good to pass up.
The Threat’s Timetable
Many banks are under the assumption this won’t present a threat for several years, but the truth is, many of these groups have already spent at least a year or more working on these plans. In fact, one’s already attacked smaller American groups as a “test run”. In other words, they’re ready.
While they may not target U.S. economic sites immediately, it’s expected once the government sites have been targeted, the economic and banking sites would soon follow. Already, they’re targeting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton by sending a message, via a graphic that reads, “Mrs. Clinton Do you want to hear the voice of oppressed nations will heart of USA?” It also says, “Islamic world doesn’t believe USA trickery.”
The American Consumer
So why would these groups target the average American citizen? It’s actually quite simple, according to some financial leaders, “It’s cheap, effective and doesn’t necessarily cause fatalities”. Not only that, but in a country like Iran, it’s a better financial alternative than trying to build expensive missiles and other weapons. Further, many assume the country’s nuclear program was annihilated in recent years, courtesy of a computer worm dubbed “Stuxnet”.
So what can the average soccer mom do who relies on her Visa credit card? Frankly, not much. If these efforts do come full circle, it will affect millions and any number of networks. While there is some level of comfort in knowing it’s possible, short of canceling your credit cards, there’s not much that can be done by the average consumer.
Banks and credit card companies consistently update their security efforts with the latest technology and that might be serve as some degree of comfort for Americans, but if these Iranian professionals keep pace with that same technology, then it might come down to which government is more savvy when it comes to internet security.
German computer expert Ralph Langner said in a recent interview,
We will see a learning curve in the same way we saw it with conventional malware… sophisticated cyber weapons will be in the hands of intelligence services and military units, but also in the hands of terrorists and organized crime. There is no way this can be prevented.
For now, the advice is the same as it always is for credit card users: check your monthly statement and remain vigilant in your efforts to zero in on any charges or suspicious activity as you always are. Report anything that looks suspicious to your credit card company or bank.