Iran Has Laid Groundwork for Extensive US Cyberattacks, US Officials Say

An Iranian official claimed its cyber activities "are defensive in nature and necessary for our country's protection"

Iranian hackers have laid the groundwork for extensive cyberattacks on U.S. and European infrastructure as well as private companies, multiple senior U.S. officials told NBC News.

The U.S. is hardening its defenses, warning allies and weighing whether to counterattack, though there is no indication an Iranian operation is imminent, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Thousands of water plants, electric grids and health care and technology companies in the U.S., Europe and Middle East could be hit with denial-of-service attacks in the event of a strike.

A U.S. National Security Council representative declined to comment, while a representative of Iran's mission to the United Nations claimed that it's the U.S. which is the "most belligerent cyber attacker of any nation" and said, without commenting on specific operations, that Iran's activities in the space "are defensive in nature and necessary for our country's protection."

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