Since 2021, Russia and Iran have undertaken extensive cybersecurity cooperation, most of which has focused on common defensive measures. However, in late March, Moscow delivered a substantial upgrade to the Islamic regime’s digital arsenal. As the Wall Street Journal has reported, the Kremlin is now delivering powerful surveillance software to Tehran.

The prospect of enhanced Iranian cyber capabilities should obviously concern U.S. officials. Tehran has undertaken increasingly aggressive and disruptive cyberattacks against America and its partners over the last decade. The growing authoritarian partnership with Moscow—both in cyberspace and in conventional domains—will only accelerate the development of Iran’s cyber capacity. There are a few reasons the Kremlin is unlikely to transfer offensive cyber capabilities to Tehran. But even greater cooperation between the two countries is a threat to U.S. interests, and the longer Russia’s foray into Ukraine lasts, the more leverage Iran will have over it. 

What would keep Russia from giving Iran the capability to attack U.S.-based networks? Some offensive components, such as malware programs and exploits for vulnerabilities are “rivalrous goods”—the consumption or use of these tools by one hacker precludes the reasonable or effective use of the same capabilities by others. Such capabilities are also “use it and lose it” in nature: Once deployed to disrupt U.S. networks, they have little reuse value. Additionally, sharing offensive tools would require Russia to give Iran too much access to its broader offensive cyber operations ecosystem, and there is the risk of misattribution—that any attacks by Iran could be blamed on Russia instead.

Read the full article at The Dispatch.

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