What to understand about escalating tensions with Iran, and therefore the potential for cyber attacks

Tensions between the us and Iran weigh heavy for Arizonans, as they wait to ascertain what may happen after President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani last week.

On Tuesday night, Iran fired rockets at Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops. Iranian secretary of state Javad Zarif framed the attack as a measure of self-defense during a tweet after the missiles landed.

“We don’t seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression,” Zarif wrote.

In an address on Wednesday morning, Trump sought to lower tensions with Iran. He announced new sanctions on Iran and touted the might of U.S. armed services, but didn’t directly threaten any military response to the attacks on the bases.

Many Americans know little about the history between the 2 countries or the present climate within the Middle East . there’s uncertainty about what could happen, what it means for them and what they will do about it.

Experts who have spent their careers studying Iran and policy say we should always remain concerned and continue listening to the U.S. conflict with Iran, though Wednesday’s news seemed better than the day before.

Still, one adieu doesn’t deflate decades of uncertainty and escalation between the 2 countries, they said.

“I think that is the most terrifying thing, this deep uncertainty,” said Dr. Pardis Mahdavi, director of the varsity of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. “I think everybody was surprised by the assassination of Soleimani. … Now there’s another fear — you only do not know what could happen next.”

Dr. Laila Hudson, a professor within the University of Arizona’s School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, said that if the events of the past week, starting with Soleimani’s killing, had “taken us two or three steps closer to the sting of war, we’ve come a step in, within the subsequent events,” Hudson said.

She sees it a touch like wrestling . each side puff themselves up to perform, then allow one another to backtrack , she said.

“They are playing to the smallest amount sophisticated, most emotional members of their constituency to point out that they are not getting to take these aggressions and insults respectively on each side in the other way than bellicose,” she said. “But make no mistake, neither side wants to urge during a shooting war.”

That absolutely doesn’t mean the coast is obvious , though, she said.

“We are still during a place where any impulsive action, any confused decision-making process, any crossed signals could trigger unanticipated and unwanted escalations,” she said. “But we have seen , again, a sort of a de facto , unspoken, almost choreographed off-ramp provided for every side.”

What could happen next?
The safe back what could happen next is that there’s no safe bet.

“The tension doesn’t get away simply because things have deescalated a touch bit,” said Dr. Jeff Kubiak, senior fellow at the middle on the longer term of War at ASU.

Trump’s statement on Wednesday morning, along side Zarif’s statement the night before, show that both countries seem to require to avoid a bigger conflict, the experts said.

“My biggest concern during this situation, quite frankly, is that the incontrovertible fact that the elevation of those tensions happened with virtually zero input from the representatives of the American people, which is U.S. Congress,” Kubiak said.

Politicians and therefore the public should demand more clarity round the U.S.’s purpose and vision for policy , said Daniel Rothenberg, co-director of the middle on the longer term of War.

What is a cyber attack?
One major area of concern about the impact of escalating tensions is cyber attacks. Experts say Iran is especially apt to wage cyber attacks even in peacetime and therefore the Department of Homeland Security warned Americans on Saturday to “be prepared for cyber disruptions, suspicious emails, and network delays.”

A cyber attack is any quite digital plan to access private information, which incorporates private information kept by individuals, companies and government agencies, consistent with technology company Cisco.

Phishing may be a common sort of cyber attack. It involves false messages that attempt to trick people into giving out personal information, just like the password to their work email. The emails will often appear as if authentic requests to vary a user’s password, but, when examined closer, comes from a malicious source.

Larger scale cyber attacks attempt to compromise private information from companies or government agencies. Capital One, a financial company, suffered a huge data breach in 2019, which compromised the info of quite a million customers, including Social Security numbers and mastercard data.

Government entities also are in danger . When Baltimore was hacked last year, officials refused to pay an $80,000 ransom to regain control of its computer systems. Recovering from the attack cost the town millions.

Should Arizona expect cyber attacks?
Ben Petersen, a spokesman with Gov. Doug Ducey’s office, said the state’s cybersecurity team has seen a rise an attempts to breach state systems, and a rise in IP addresses linked to Iran.

He said the team is functioning with federal, state and native agencies also as private-sector organizations to stay state information secure.

“Governor Ducey has made cybersecurity a priority across the administration, including cybersecurity awareness training for all state employees to defend against these threats,” Petersen wrote during a statement.

Arizona isn’t alone. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said state agencies there have seen 10,000 attempted attacks from Iran per minute within the span of 48 hours, consistent with the Texas Tribune. Officials said they knew of no successful attacks.

Cyber attacks from foreign governments aren’t new, Lorna Kertész, president of the Phoenix chapter of the International Systems Security Association, said. Over the past decade, these attacks became routine for giant companies.

“It truly is cyber warfare,” she said.

Kertész said attacks originating from Iran have long been common, also as threats from other countries including Russia and China.

“We’re just likely to ascertain an escalation of these ,” she said.

She said attackers would more likely choose big targets like internet service providers and banks, with the intent to harm the economy, possibly locking those organizations out of online information systems. they’ll also target individuals who work on those big organizations for access into their information systems through phishing emails.

Security research experts told USA Today that Americans should get on the lookout for cyber attacks because the U.S. remains at odds with Iran.

What you’ll do to remain cyber secure
Kertész said individuals should get on the lookout for phishing attempts in their inboxes, particularly through their work email accounts.

The emails look real initially glance, but dozens of signs can indicate phishing, like email addresses that don’t match the company’s name. If a colleague emails you with an invitation that seems suspect or out of character, don’t answer the message and instead follow up in-person or over the phone.

If possible, activate two-factor authentication for signing into email, online banking and other sensitive accounts. Two-factor authentication usually requires the user to enter their password and a code from a text message to sign into a web account.

Kertész also advised users to avoid clicking on sponsored ads online, particularly if they are not conversant in a corporation .

What are you able to do about the conflict?
The past 20 years of conflicts within the Middle East showed how detached the typical American are often with its country’s wars, Rothenberg, co-director of the middle on the longer term of War, said.

“If you’re lecture people that are within the U.S. military, this might well affect their lives quite directly and immediately,” he said. “But if you’re talking about your average American resident living their lives, to what degree does an escalation affect people? i do not think it is easy to answer. The last 20 years have shown us that, that, you know, a rustic are often at war, and for several people, it isn’t something that affects their daily lives.”

The average American could work to raised understand the connection between the 2 countries and therefore the history of the center East, multiple experts said. Having more knowledge would help people understand the nuances and complexity involved within the current conflict, they said.

“You want to resist the impulse to panic and respond emotionally to those things,” Hudson said.

The reports of extended questioning of Iranians trying to enter the U.S. from Canada, as an example , is “the quite panicky and illegal and unjustified response that, in fact, makes our adversaries gleeful.”

Madhavi said it’s important for U.S. citizens to not let their fear and uncertainty about the U.S. and Iran grow into hatred of all Iranians and Muslims in America.

“I’m afraid for my relations back in Iran,” Madhavi said. “I’m also afraid for my very own children living here in America.”

Her kids have seen headlines at the grocery , she said, and asked her what it means for them.

She tells them it’s a scary time.

“We need to put our hope and our faith in our communities, the communities that we sleep in here, that folks will attempt to understand the nuance and therefore the context and understand that we also need support at a time like this,” she said.

USA TODAY contributed to the present story.

Reach reporter Rachel Leingang by email at rachel.leingang@gannett.com or by phone at 602-444-8157, or find her on Twitter and Facebook.

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