Utah officials say they beat back a cyberattack from Iran

(Nasser Nasser | The Associated Press) Graffiti adorns a wall in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. Iran struck back at the United States early Wednesday for killing a top Revolutionary Guard commander, firing a series of ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq that house American troops in a major escalation between the two longtime foes. Utah agencies also reported an attempted cyberattack from Iran over the weekend.

A Utah government agency says it has pushed back on a cyberattack it says originated from Iran — likely in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed an Iranian military leader in Iraq.

The Utah Division of Technology Services picked up an unusual amount of “surveillance traffic” Sunday, and saw that it was mostly coming from Iran.

“We normally don’t see stuff from Iran,” Phil Bates, the division’s chief information security officer, said Wednesday. “They were scanning our network, looking for any opportunity that was there.”

The division enacted “countermeasures” — Bates wouldn’t say what they were, due to security concerns — to push back against the surveillance. The traffic quieted down after Sunday, he said.

Bates said the state works closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which warned agencies nationwide about possible cyberattacks from Iran.

The DHS warning came after the drone strike last Thursday that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a major figure in the Iranian military. Iran launched missiles at two U.S.-backed military bases in Iran, also in retaliation for Soleimani’s death; no one was killed in those missile strikes, President Donald Trump said in an address from the White House Wednesday.

Anyone who uses a computer should be careful about such cyberattacks, which often come from criminal elements. “These state actors are coming after the same toolbox,” Bates said. “I don’t think you can ever let your guard down.”