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Iran: 'U.S. Power Grid Prime Target for Cyber Attack'

On April 16, the head of Iranian cyberwarfare within Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Gholam Reza Jalali, officially blamed the U.S. and Israel for Stuxnet -- a mysterious computer worm that has harmed Iran’s nuclear program. The Guard’s officials have repeatedly warned of retaliation: both for the assassinations of the Iranian nuclear scientists inside Iran, which they called acts of espionage, and for Stuxnet.

Reports from Iran indicate that during a recent meeting among Iran’s Revolutionary Guard commanders and Iranian scientists, America’s vulnerabilities for a cyber attack were discussed. They concluded that the U.S. power grids represent the best opportunity for such attacks, as more U.S. utilities are moving their control systems to the Internet and using smart-grid technology.

The Iranian leaders have acknowledged Stuxnet hit a limited number of centrifuges at both its main uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and its nuclear power plant in Bushehr. Although the Iranians quickly replaced the defective centrifuges at Natanz and have steadily enriched uranium to a holding of over 8000 pounds (enough for three nuclear bombs), they have not been able to recover as fast at the Bushehr nuclear power plant. Rejoining the country’s power grid has been delayed several times.

It was reported last month that the Iranian cyber warfare program was moved under the supervision of the Passive Defense Organization of Iran. The European Union lists this as an entity linked to either Iran's proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities or Iran's development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.