Government officials and outside experts on Friday confirmed a report in The Wall Street Journal that the source of the attacks had been narrowed to Iran. They said the evidence was not specific enough to conclude with confidence that the attacks were state-sponsored, but control over the Internet is so centralized in Iran that they said it was hard to imagine the attacks being done without government knowledge.
While the attackers have been unsuccessful to date, they have made enough progress to prompt the Homeland Security warning, which compared the latest threat to the computer virus that hit Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, last year. After investigations, American officials concluded that the Aramco attack, and a subsequent one at RasGas, the Qatari energy company, were the work of Iran.
Taken together, officials say, the attacks suggest that Iran’s hacking skills have improved over the past 18 months. The Obama administration has been focused on Iran because the attacks have given the Iranian government a way to retaliate for tightened economic sanctions against it, and for the American and Israeli program that aimed similar attacks, using a virus known as Stuxnet, on the Natanz nuclear enrichment plant.