Iran Begins Cyber Attacks Against U.S. Government Websites, Leaves Nuclear Deal.

The homepage for the U.S. Federal Depository Library Program went offline and displayed a message purporting to be from hackers in Iran.

Raft of Low Level Attacks Defaces Home Pages and Brings Down Websites.

A series of low-level cyber-attacks on U.S. government websites over the weekend may be the beginning of Iran’s threatened retaliation for the death of General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft strike while he visited Iraq last week. The Iranian government also announced it was leaving a 2015 agreement that prohibited the enrichment of uranium, a move that could signal renewed Iranian activity in the development of nuclear weapons.

The Federal Depository Library at was offline as of Sunday, January 5, 2020 at 1500 local time in the Midwestern U.S. The website home page showed a message that said, “ERROR 521: Web Server is Down”. Some media reports, including CBS and CNN, reported that the website briefly displayed anti-American messages, including a defaced photo of U.S. President Donald Trump and an Iranian flag. The images are no longer visible in the U.S. on the Federal Depository Library website, only the error message as the website remains offline.

The Federal Depository Website homepage as it appeared briefly on Saturday, January 4 in the U.S. following an Iranian cyber-attack. (Photo: Screen shot via Federal Depository Website)

In a statement published Saturday, January 4, 2020, on the official Department of Homeland Security website, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf said that, “At this time there is no specific, credible threat against the homeland. The Department issued this bulletin to inform, share protective measures, and reassure the American public, state and local governments, and private sector partners that the Department of Homeland Security is actively monitoring and preparing for any specific, credible threat, should one arise”.

The Federal Depository Website homepage was inoperable on Sunday in the U.S. (Photo: Screen shot via Federal Depository Website)

The U.S. Selective Service System website, at, was also down as of 1515 local time in the Midwestern U.S. on Sunday, with the page loading incorrectly after a protracted wait. It was not clear whether the system had been compromised by a deliberate cyber-attack, such a denial of service operation, or if an extraordinary volume of traffic prompted by social media stories rumors of the U.S. reinstated the military draft had caused the interruption in service.

Other key U.S. government service websites, including the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration and the websites remained fully operational on Sunday.

The U.S. Selective Service Website homepage was also down on Sunday in the U.S. either as a result of heavy traffic or from possible offensive cyber-strike operations such as a denial of service attack. (Photo: Screen shot via Selective Service Website)

The United States has been active in counter-cyber operations and offensive cyber operations since the mid-1980’s, and may lead the world in cyber-combat capabilities, although countries including Syria, China and Israel have recently expanded cyber-combat capabilities and operations extensively.

In September 1984, during the Reagan administration, the White House issued “National Security Decision Directive Number 145”, or “NSDD-145”. The directive was the beginning of the development of offensive and defensive cyber combat capabilities in the U.S.

Interestingly, the move to establish NSDD-145 is said to, in part, come from then-President Ronald Reagan’s obsession with a Hollywood feature film called, “WarGames” starring Matthew Broderick. The film’s fictional plot follows the online misadventures of a young hacker played by Broderick who unwittingly penetrates the War Operation Planned Response (WOPR) computer and almost starts an accidental nuclear war.

About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on,, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.