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Former FBI agent: Risk of Iranian cyberattack is 'high but manageable'

Julia La Roche

A former FBI agent on Thursday outlined one of the worst-case scenarios stemming from elevated tensions between the U.S. and Iran: A potential cyberattack.

Leo Taddeo, the chief information security officer for Cyxtera Federal Group, told Yahoo Finance that, in the aftermath of the U.S. killing top General Qassem Soleimani, cyberspace has become particularly risky for American businesses, consumers and the government.

His “main concern is really about the intersection between cyber and the physical world,” Taddeo told “On the Move” in an interview.

“So, cyberattacks can collect information on high-profile individuals. And, really, in my view, the risk of a cyberattack is high, but the impact is manageable,” said Taddeo, who was charge of the cyber division for the FBI’s New York Office.

Stuart Davis, a director at one of FireEye's subsidiaries speaks to journalists about the techniques of Iranian hacking, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. A new report by FireEye, a cybersecurity firm, warned that a suspected group of hackers in Iran are targeting the aviation and petrochemical industries in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and South Korea. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

While markets have clawed back from a knee-jerk selloff in the wake of the Soleimani killing last week — and this week’s Iranian missile attack against U.S. bases in Iraq — fears are still percolating about what comes next. Most observers think an armed conflict is unlikely for now, but there are other was Iran can extract revenge.

“What I think the Iranians are really after in the long term is a tit-for-tat high-profile killing of an American,” Taddeo explained.

“I mean, it’s sad to say, but that’s really what the regime has been known for and that’s really what they’re going after. I think cyber is a way for them to collect the kind of information on our executives, on our high profile Americans that will allow them to properly and effectively target someone in this country or outside the country,” he added.

Taddeo added that Iranian hackers are prepared to attack — but it’s now a matter of deciding how and whether the attack factors into their risk calculation for retaliation.  

“And, now, their risk calculation has become more complicated because they don’t know what the U.S. government is prepared to do in retaliation,” Taddeo said. He added that Iran’s calculations have become “a little bit fuzzy” because the U.S. used to have predictable responses. 

“I think the recent attack, whether you agree with the timing and type of attack,  has shown the U.S. is a little less predictable today for the Iranians than we were a week ago,” he said.

Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on