Iran admits to ‘large scale’ hacking of key institutions

The cyberattacks occurred Tuesday and Wednesday and were under investigation, the state-owned IRAN daily newspaper said.
Thursday 15/10/2020
An employee of a stock brokerage firm monitors the stock prices on his computer, in Tehran. (AP)
An employee of a stock brokerage firm monitors the stock prices on his computer, in Tehran. (AP)

TEHRAN--Hackers launched large-scale attacks on two Iranian government institutions this week, an Iranian senior official admitted on Thursday, without giving details on the targets or the suspected perpetrators.

Some government bodies had since temporarily shut down internet services as a precaution, Abolghasem Sadeghi, from the government’s Information Technology Organization, told state TV.

The cyberattacks occurred Tuesday and Wednesday and were under investigation, the state-owned IRAN daily newspaper said.

The cyber attacks “are under investigation,” Sadeghi said. They were “important and on a large scale,” he added.

Iran says it is on high alert for online assaults, which it has blamed in the past on the United States and other foreign states.

The United States and other Western powers have also accused Iran of trying to disrupt and break into their networks.

Sources told the Reuters news agency this April that hackers working in Iran’s interests had targeted the personal email accounts of staff at the World Health Organization during the coronavirus outbreak. Tehran denied any involvement.

Illustrative picture. (REUTERS)
Illustrative picture. (REUTERS)

Iran occasionally says it has thwarted cyberattacks on its infrastructure, although it has disconnected much of its infrastructure from the internet after the Stuxnet computer virus, widely believed to be a joint US-Israeli creation, disrupted thousands of Iranian centrifuges in the country’s nuclear sites in the late 2000s.

In December, Iran said it halted a massive cyberattack on unspecified “electronic infrastructure” but provided no specifics on the purported attack.

Last year, Washington officials said that US military cyber forces launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems, as US President Donald Trump backed away from plans for a more conventional military strike in response to Iran’s downing of a US surveillance drone in the strategic Arabian Gulf.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since 2018 when Trump withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.