The threat of conventional military attacks between the U.S. and Iran seems to have cooled a bit since last week. But don’t take your eye off the cyber battlefield. The two countries have been going at it in cyberspace for decades, sometimes with serious real-world consequences.

According to cybersecurity expert Bryan Cunningham from the University of California Irvine, these hacks can be particularly dangerous because they tend to focus on targets in the private sector. Critical infrastructure companies – like those that control power grids, water plants and health systems – are on the front lines of cyber conflict but may have weaker defenses than government entities do. Luckily, Cunningham writes, there are steps they can take to “both to protect themselves and to enhance our collective national cybersecurity.”

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In the wake of U.S. killings, Iran’s supreme leader vowed ‘harsh revenge’ – which could come in the form of cyber attacks. Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP

Cyberspace is the next front in Iran-US conflict – and private companies may bear the brunt

Bryan Cunningham, University of California, Irvine

Less overt than conventional military actions, cyber attacks can have dangerous consequences – especially when they target critical infrastructure systems controlled by the private sector.

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