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Cyberspies Seen Targeting U.S. Plans on Iran Nuclear Work

An Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan in 2007.

An Iranian technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan in 2007. // AP file photo

Analysts say a possible 3-year computer offensive has targeted details on U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran, the Wall Street Journalreports.

Individuals inside Iran seem to be responsible for the apparent ongoing effort, which has involved the use of a fabricated news group to establish social-media connections with personnel in foreign governments and companies, according to a Wednesday report by the firm iSight Partners. The authors found no clear indication of sponsorship by Iran's government, and Tehran has rebuffed past accusations of electronic espionage.

The analysis, though, suggests the newly uncovered effort is geared toward gathering details on U.S. financial and negotiation strategies to contain Iran's disputed nuclear activities. Targets have included senior U.S. nonproliferation and sanctions personnel, as well as Israeli security firms and individuals lobbying on U.S.-Israeli ties, according to the findings.

The Persian Gulf power is in talks with Washington and five other governments to resolve fears that Tehran may tap its civilian atomic capabilities to build nuclear weapons. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday said "progress" came out of a two-day meeting he held this week with European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, an interlocutor for the six other negotiating powers, Agence France-Presse reported.

The iSight report says information gleaned in the apparent espionage activities could help pave the way for more harmful offensive moves, the Journal reported. Victims of the effort have primarily been in the United States and Israel, but have also included individuals in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and the United Kingdom, according to the assessment.

The analysis firm supplied its findings to the FBI and other U.S. agencies, and is collaborating with social-media groups to halt some of the operations.

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