Iran’s secret cyber war-room is located at Hizballah’s secret internal security apparatus headquarters in the Shiite Dahya district of South Beirut,DEBKAfile’s exclusive intelligence and counterterrorism sources reveal. The hackers and cyber experts who recently attacked American banks and Saudi oil sites and which guided an Iranian stealth drone into Israeli airspace on Oct. 6, operate from Hizballah’s premises in Beirut and its secret bunkers.
Wafiq Safa is head of the security apparatus and also deputy of the Iranian general, Hossein Mahadavi, who serves as the liaison and coordination officer with Hizballah in Lebanon.Safa’s son is married to the Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s sister.
Cyber intelligence experts explain Tehran uses its Lebanese surrogate to host its global digital war-room - firstly, to disguise the source of its cyber offensives and keep Iran clear of blame; secondly, because the Hizballah facility is protected from electronic penetration by exceptionally efficient firewalls.
They were strong enough to keep Israeli cyber experts from discovering the electronic center which dispatched the UAV over their country and reaching its controllers. Whenever Israel experts tried manipulating the drone’s movements, they found an external force overrode them and recovered control. Eventually, the Israeli commanders gave up and ordered the drone brought down with as little damage as possible.
The drone’s components have given up to its captors many secrets about Iran’s stealth UAV technology and capabilities, but very little about the Iranian cyber team operating out of the Hizballah facility in Beirut and their equipment.
By cutting away from the captured UAV, the Iranian controllers also locked their operation away from outside access and any possible evaluation of their capabilities.
The Americans encountered the same difficulty in early October when they tried to locate and identify the hackers who disabled 10 major US bank websites, attacked Saudi Arabia’s Aramco’s websites with a virus called Shamoon that replaced data with burning American flags, and invaded the computers of Qatar’s gas industry.
Six days after the drone’s penetration of Israel, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta talked to reporters in New York about “a pre-9/11 moment” for the United States. He did not come right out and name Iran or mention its cyber war headquarters in Beirut. He did, however, warn “the attackers are plotting,” and that recent electronic attacks in US and abroad demonstrate the need for “a more aggressive military role in defense and to retaliate against organized groups or hostile governments.”