Although Facebook’s new notification system that warns users if their accounts have been compromised by a state-sponsored attack might seem superfluous, it’s already catching attackers in the act.
According to a report from The New York Times, State Department officials only became aware of attacks from Iranian hackers after Facebook notified them that their accounts had been compromised.
The report claims that the attackers were hoping to gain access to the email and social media accounts of “officials who focus on Iran and the Middle East,” specifically younger employees who would be more likely to connect with other officials around the department on social media.
“It was very carefully designed and showed the degree to which they understood which of our staff was working on Iran issues now that the nuclear deal is done,” a senior official told the Times. “It was subtle.”
U.S. intelligence officials believe that Iran is going to continue to attempt to infiltrate the government in “subtle” ways, but won’t do anything extreme enough to put the nuclear deal in jeopardy.
“The Iranians have not been as destructive as they could be, but they are getting far more aggressive in cyberespionage, which they know is less likely to prompt a response from the United States,” James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the publication. “They seem very attuned to every stage of implementing the nuclear agreement.”