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Cyber Escalation – The conflict dyad USA/Iran as a test case

At the beginning of July 2020, a series of detonations in the Iranian nuclear fuel enrichment plant in Natanz triggered fears of a Stuxnet 2.0. The Stuxnet computer worm, which physically destroyed Iranian nuclear centrifuges in 2010, is considered by many as the starting point for the smoldering cyber conflict between Iran and the USA. Stuxnet is still considered to be one of the most aggressive cyber attacks to date because it was the first digital malware to cause damage in physical space, thus reaching a new level of intensity. In the words of former NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, “someone crossed the Rubicon” with Stuxnet. The conflict dyad USA-Iran is particularly interesting from the perspective of cyber security research and international relations since disputes are carried out in the cyber- and information space as well as in the conventional, physical domain. The interaction between the two cyber powers has a “cross-domain” dimension, which has been rarely studied so far.

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