Iran attributes fuel shutdown to cyberattack by anonymous country

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An Iranian official blamed a cyberattack that crippled gas stations across the country on a foreign country on Tuesday, as authorities said the problem was being addressed and fuel distribution resumed nationwide.

The attack blocked the computer system that allows Iranians to refill their tanks for free or at subsidized prices with a digital card issued by the authorities, resulting in long queues and frustration as motorists pulled through. were found stranded without fuel.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Wednesday that the cyberattack was designed to “anger people by creating unrest and disruption.”

Raisi declined to point the finger at who was responsible for the incident, but added that: “There should be serious preparation in the area of ​​cyber warfare and the related bodies should not allow the enemy to pursue their worrying objectives. to create problems in people’s lives. “

A senior Iranian official said on Wednesday that the cyberattack affected all of the Islamic Republic’s 4,300 gas stations. But according to the official IRNA news agency, 80% of Iranian gas stations had started selling fuel again by Wednesday morning, the official said.

Abolhassan Firoozabadi, a senior official at Iran’s Supreme Cyberspace Council, told state broadcaster IRIB that the attack was apparently carried out by a foreign country, although it is too early to name any suspects. He also linked the attack to another that targeted Iran’s rail system in July, in comments reported by IRNA.

“It is possible that the attack, like a previous one against the rail system, was carried out from abroad,” Firouzabadi said.

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council earlier confirmed that the disruption was caused by a cyber attack, state television said. “Details of the attack and its source are under investigation,” state television added, without giving further details.

A worker leans against a gasoline pump that was turned off at a gas station in Tehran, Iran on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. (AP Photo / Vahid Salemi)

Fereidoon Hassanvand, head of Iran’s parliamentary energy committee, said gas stations were hit by a “targeted operation,” Iranian media Tasnim reported.

Javad Owji, the country’s petroleum minister, told IRIB that authorities expect all gas stations to be back online on Wednesday afternoon. He added that specialists were working to strengthen the security of fuel cards.

The cyberattack bore similarities to another attack a few months earlier that appeared to directly challenge Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the country’s economy collapsed under US sanctions. These economic problems are escalating as the United States and Iran have yet to reinstate Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers.

The semi-official ISNA news agency said it saw those who tried to buy fuel with a government-issued card through the machines instead received a message that read “cyberattack 64411”. Most Iranians depend on these subsidies to power their vehicles, especially amid the country’s economic woes.

Although ISNA did not recognize the importance of the number, this number is associated with a hotline run by the Khamenei office that deals with issues of Islamic law. ISNA later suppressed its reports, claiming it had also been hacked. Such hacking allegations can arise quickly when Iranian media publishes information that anger the theocracy.

A video allegedly shot in the Iranian city of Ishfan shows a billboard with the message “Khamenei, where is our essence?” amid a possible cyberattack affecting gas stations across Iran on October 26, 2021 (Screen capture: Twitter)

Overseas Farsi satellite channels posted videos apparently shot by drivers in Isfahan, a large Iranian city, showing electronic billboards saying, “Khamenei! Where is our gas? Another said, “Free gasoline at the Jamaran gas station,” a reference to the house of the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Interior Minister Ahmed Vahidi said on Tuesday that there were no plans to increase gas prices, calling on people “not to worry,” in remarks on state television.

Iran on one side and the United States and Israel on the other regularly accuse each other of cyberattacks. Israeli cyber experts told public broadcaster Kan on Tuesday that this week’s cyberattack on Iran appeared to have been carried out by serious hackers: “We are not talking about children, but rather professional hackers – which is wrong. ‘not rule out that they a state government.

In 2010, the Stuxnet virus – believed to have been engineered by Israel and the United States – infected Iran’s nuclear program, causing a series of failures in the centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

In 2019, Iran said no cyberattack on the Islamic Republic had ever been successful, after U.S. media reported that the United States launched one during a standoff between the two countries.

The Iranian telecommunications minister admitted at the time that Iran had “faced cyberterrorism”.

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