- Fdlp.gov website was defaced by hackers and taken offline on Saturday
- Site is run by the little-known Federal Depository Library Program
- The Fdlp makes government publications available to the public for free
- Follows defacement of websites for several obscure non-government entities
- Iran has vowed 'harsh revenge' for the US killing of a high-level military leader
A US government website has been hacked by a group claiming to represent the government of Iran.
The website operated by the little-known Federal Depository Library Program (Fdlp), fdlp.gov, was hacked and defaced on Saturday and has been taken offline, reports Daily Mail.
A message from the hackers left on the website:
"In the name of god >>>>> Hacked By Iran Cyber Security Group HackerS ... )<<<<<
This is only small part of Iran's cyber ability ! We're always ready."
The Fdlp is a program created to make federal government publications available to the public at no cost.
It followed the similar hacking of websites for a number of obscure, non-governmental entities, including the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, the Taiwan Lung Meng Technology Company, and the Human Rights Protection Association of India.
The website for a British company called Bigways was also struck in the cyber attacks.
Security experts have already warned that cyber attacks could be part of Iran's retaliation for the US airstrike on Friday that killed Revolutionary Guard General Qassem Soleimani, a top official in Iran and beloved there.
Iran's state-backed hackers are already among the world's most aggressive and could inject malware that triggers major disruptions to the US public and private sector.
Potential targets include manufacturing facilities, oil and gas plants and transit systems. A top US cybersecurity official is warning businesses and government agencies to be extra vigilant.
In 2012 and 2013, in response to US sanctions, Iranian state-backed hackers carried out a series of disruptive denial-of-service attacks that knocked offline the websites of major US banks including Bank of America as well as the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ.
Two years later, they wiped servers at the Sands Casino in Las Vegas, crippling hotel and gambling operations.
The destructive attacks on US targets ebbed when Tehran reached a nuclear deal with the Obama administration in 2015.
The killing early Friday in Iraq of Quds Force commander Soleimani - long after Trump scrapped the nuclear deal - completely alters the equation.
"Our concern is essentially that things are going to go back to the way they were before the agreement," said John Hultquist, director of intelligence analysis at the cybersecurity firm FireEye. "There are opportunities for them to cause real disruption and destruction."
Iran has been doing a lot of probing of critical US industrial systems in recent years - trying to gain access - but has limited its destructive attacks to targets in the Middle East, experts say.
It's not known whether Iranian cyberagents have planted destructive payloads in US infrastructure that could now be triggered.
"It's certainly possible," Hultquist said. "But we haven´t actually seen it."