US Confirms that Iran Masterminded the 2014 Cyber-Attack on Sands Corporation


James Clapper Confirmed about Iran What Most Observers Had Suspected for a Year

US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spoke this week about a cyber-attack on the player database of the Las Vegas Sands last year. Clapper confirmed in his remark that the attack was launched by the Iranian government.

The Sands Corporation, which has generated the most revenue of any gaming company in the world the past few years, is headed by Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson is a personal friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an outspoken critic of the Iranian government.

Iran Targets Adelson’s Corporation

Shelson Adelson is best known in the United States for his support of Republican policies. In 2012, the gaming executive provided more monetary support for the RNC and Republican candidates than any other single American.

What people might not know is that Adelson has global economic and political concerns. The Las Vegas mogul owns several Israeli media companies. He also has spoken out against the Iranian nuclear program, going so far as to call for the Israeli Air Force to bomb facilities in Iran.

Thirty-seven years after the Ayatollah Khomenei came to power in Iran, that country continues to be led by a repressive regime. While Iran’s population tends to be more politically active than many countries in the Middle East, those who protest face the possibility of harsh reprisals from the police. Iran’s leaders are not used to being criticized and lash out against those who do so, such as Sheldon Adelson.

North Korea’s Attack on Sony

James Clapper’s comments came in the same press conference in which he formally accused the North Korean government for a cyber attack on the Sony Corporation. The attack was motivated by ire over Sony’s release of the movie “The Interview”, a farcical comedy in which two bunglers try to assassinate the North Korean president, Kim Jong-un.

In his comments, Clapper labeled Iran and North Korea unpredictable cyber-actors. Clapper, “While both of these nations have lesser technical capabilities in comparison to Russia and China, these destructive attacks demonstrate that Iran and North Korea are motivated and unpredictable cyber-actors.”

New Era in State-Backed Computer Hacking

The incidents show that a new era has opened in which nations could attack commercial interests (and not government targets) in an effort to hurt the economic and political interests of a state. In the increasingly interconnected and technology-dependent world we live in, countries are more vulnerable than they ever have been before. It shows what a war between major states might look like, as public, private, and individual computer technology could be attacked. The Russian government once was accused of attacking the computer network of the government of Estonia, when that country was about to join NATO. But 2014 was the first time governments are known to have attacked private interests.

The U.S. government’s acknowledgement that Iran was behind the attack on the Las Vegas Sands may be of little comfort to Sheldon Adelson and other Sands executives. Unless the US government takes steps to punish wrongdoers for their attacks on American corporations, such attacks are likely to continue. But in the complicated world of international diplomacy, in which nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and power politics are at play, one singular cyber-attack that inconveniences a corporation and frightens its customers might seem like a minor act.

United States Cyber Defense

Of course, what goes without saying is that the United States is likely to have the most advanced cyber-attack capacity in the world. The nation which has driven the growth of the Internet more than any other is likely to have a dedicated and well-trained cyber component to its defense industry. In fact, we know North Korea was the culprit in the Sony case because the NSA breached North Korea’s networks. One can imagine the United States learned the truth about Iran’s attack in much the same way.

Less-developed countries which employ computer hacking to attack their opponents might well find themselves on the receiving end of such treatment. While North Korea has little in the way of foreign trade, the same cannot be said of Iran. Those who live by the programmers code can die by the programmers code.

About the Director of National Intelligence

James Clapper, a retired Air Force general, was tabbed to be the Director of National Intelligence in 2010. As the Director of National Intelligence, he heads the Defense Intelligence Agency or “DIA”.

In that capacity, he coordinates intelligence gather for a coalition of 17 agencies and organizations.

Those various information gathering offices are: Air Force Intelligence, Department of the Treasury (IRS), Army Intelligence, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Coast Guard Intelligence, Marine Corps Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy (Nuclear Program), the National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency (NSA), Department of State (US embassies worldwide), and Navy Intelligence.