If you want to know what kind of damage hackers – really good hackers – can do to a country, take a look at what Anonymous did to Iran.

Iran’s Internet is anything but free, and a free Internet is what the international hacker group desires more than anything else. As a result, Anonymous has been conducting a long-term, if sporadic hacking campaign against the Islamic Republic, and last week the hacker group renewed its efforts to hack Iran.

The new Anonymous effort, called OpIranMenace, is targeting strategic sites, including banks, infrastructure, and government offices. In a message dated March 23, Anonymous said that it was targeting the most Islamist states of the Middle East, including Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, over their restrictions of Internet use by residents. So far, sites in Iran have been targeted, and the campaign, they say, will soon be extended to the other countries listed.

In the message, Anonymous claimed to have already hacked numerous Iranian sites, including the Arka Line gas pipeline; Aban Sanat Kara, a leading company in Iran’s irrigation and hydro-mechanical industry; the Export Development Bank of Iran, which is under U.S. sanctions; and NIOC, the Iranian Oil Company, which is ranked as the world’s third largest oil company. In addition, Anonymous boasts to have hacked the United Nations office in Tehran, saying “we downed their intranet and also gained full access to the UN ATLAS system (not only in Iran).”

The message includes a link to a site that contains 55 screenshots of the hacked sites. The hacks occurred between March 21-23, the message says. Among the many documents the hackers posted was the pay slip – from the week before! – of an Iranian government employee.

With these victories under their belts, Anonymous has again made clear they have the ability and the will to get at sensitive information in real-time. And if they did it to Iran, it can be expected that Israel is open to similar treatment. We can be sure that Iran has invested mightily in cyber-protection, and yet we see Anonymous plowing through their defenses with no problem.

With threats of a major coordinated attack on Israel’s largest websites, one hopes the country’s cyber-security will stand the test.