Commercial oil tanker AbQaiq in 2003.

Enlarge / Commercial oil tanker AbQaiq in 2003. (credit: US Navy)

Hackers working for the US government wiped out a database and computer systems that Iran’s paramilitary arm used to plan attacks against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

The attack occurred on June 20, the same day that President Trump called off a retaliatory airstrike after Iran shot down a US drone. Iran is still trying to recover information destroyed in the attack and to restart Iranian computer systems and military communications networks that were taken offline, Wednesday’s report said.

The attack was part of a sustained and undeclared cyberconflict between the US and Iran. Both sides, the NYT said, calibrate their operations to ensure they don’t reach the threshold considered to be war. The US operations, which are carried out by the US Cyber Command, are designed to influence Iran’s actions without creating a broader conflict or prompting retaliation, a former senior intelligence official told the paper. Iran hasn’t escalated its attacks since the June 20 attack and has instead continued its cyber operations against the US government and corporations at its previous, steady rate.

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