Although the lasting effects of the digital raid on U.S. and Saudi Arabian computer systems was considered minimal, it was taken as a signal from Tehran that they were ready and able to carry out cyberwarfare.
"Iran has discovered a new way to harass much sooner than expected, and the United States is ill-prepared to deal with it," James A. Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in an essay published Friday on ForeignPolicy.com.
The recent series of network attacks fouled up computer systems belonging to at least one U.S. bank and the Saudi state oil company Aramco. The New York Times said the attacks were largely fairly crude "denial of service" incidents; however they were successful enough that U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned in a speech Thursday the United States faced the risk of a "cyber-Pearl Harbor."
Panetta also dropped a broad hint that the United States was developing a means of counterattacking outside cyber threats, although intelligence officials told the Times the Obama administration was undecided about revealing any details.
"The countries who need to know we have it already know," one senior official said.