Updated May 9, 2018

Iran recruits online talent for quick cyber strikes

A woman walks by a mural of an Iranian flag. Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

Iran recruits heavily from online security forums to staff suddenly-launched hacking campaigns, according to new research by Recorded Future.

Why it matters: The report comes a day after security experts expressed fears Iran may retaliate against the United States for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. As a Recorded Future official said yesterday — albeit without the detail of the report — if emergency hiring leads Tehran to hire amateurs, they may be less amenable to government control.

The report: Recorded Future based its conclusions on discussions with a well-placed source in the Iranian hacker community and analysis of Iranian security forums.

The intrigue: Iran operates a tiered system for cyber attacks, where government employees choose targets and contract private firms, including universities acting as contractors, to do the dirty work.

  • There are 50 or so private firms acting as contractors, according to the report.
  • Iran has a well-regarded cyber espionage program for slow, deliberate campaigns.
  • But when Iran needs a quick response, the contractors often need a quick influx of talent. They use security forums as an emergency recruiting tool, sacrificing quality and patriotism for speed.

The examples: Recorded Future identifies two attacks that required this kind of immediate influx of talent:

  • DDoS attacks against the financial sector between 2012 and 2014: Distributed denial of service attacks overwhelm victims' computers with internet traffic. These attacks were a rapid response to U.S. sanctions and cyber attacks against Iran's nuclear program that were widely attributed to the U.S. and Israel.
  • A destructive attack against the Sands Casino in 2013: This was in response to Sheldon Adelson suggesting the U.S. launch a nuclear assault against Iran.

Go deeper

The cost of going after Bloomberg

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Here's the growing dilemma for 2020 Democrats vying for a one-on-one showdown with frontrunner Bernie Sanders: Do they have the guts — and the money — to first stop Mike Bloomberg?

Why it matters: Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren all must weigh the costs of punching Bloomberg where he looks most vulnerable: stop-and-frisk, charges of sexism, billionaire entitlement. The more zealous the attacks, the greater the risk he turns his campaign ATM against them.

How Trump’s economy stacks up

Source: "Presidents and US Economy", Trump figures through 2019 courtesy of Alan Blinder; Note: Data shows real GDP and Q1 growth in each term is attributed to the previous president; Chart: Axios Visuals

Average economic growth under President Trump has outpaced the growth under Barack Obama, but not all of his recent predecessors.

Why it matters: GDP is the most comprehensive economic scorecard — and something presidents, especially Trump, use as an example of success. And it's especially relevant since Trump is running for re-election on his economic record.

Coronavirus cases rise as 14 American evacuees infected

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

14 Americans evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for the novel coronavirus before being flown in a "specialist containment" on a plane repatriating U.S. citizens back home, the U.S. government said early Monday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 1,770 people and infected almost 70,000 others. Most cases and all but five of the deaths have occurred in mainland China. Taiwan confirmed its first death on Sunday, per multiple reports, in a 61-year-old man with underlying health conditions. Health officials were investigating how he became ill.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health