Iran denies cyberattack after its state TV claims dam system targeted

State broadcaster said to air assertion that analytics on water reserves were knocked out, but Tehran says facilities were taken offline to ‘secure… systems’

A boat moves on the Persian Gulf Martyrs' Lake as people walk on the shore of the lake, in western Tehran, Iran, Nov. 5, 2020 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
A boat moves on the Persian Gulf Martyrs' Lake as people walk on the shore of the lake, in western Tehran, Iran, Nov. 5, 2020 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iranian officials denied Wednesday that a series of cyberattacks had affected dams controlling water reserves across Iran in recent weeks, after an informed source reportedly made the claim on Iranian state TV.

Systems responsible for collecting information on the amount of water held in reserve and assessing those figures were knocked out due to a cyberattack, the source told Iran’s IRIB state broadcaster, according to later reports.

Iran’s state run IRNA news agency carried a statement by an official from the Energy Ministry denying any attacks had occurred.

The Mehr news site also reported that Iranian authorities denied the cyberattacks, claiming that sites had been taken offline as part of efforts to “secure information and statistics systems.”

The Times of Israel could not independently confirm that the cyberattack claim was aired by IRIB.

Largely arid Iran has been suffering chronic dry spells for years, and is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world.

Water levels in the country’s lakes and reservoirs have halved since last year due to a severe drought affecting the country and the wider region, a report from Iran’s space agency said in October.

Protests over water routinely lead to unrest, with thousands rallying last week in Isfahan in central Iran to voice their anger after the city’s river dried up due to drought and diversion.

The reports on the cyberattacks on the water system came amid a years-long undercover cyberwar between Israel and Iran that has occasionally bubbled to the surface.

Last year, Israel blamed Tehran when six Water Authority facilities were targeted in a cyberattack in which hackers attempted to increase the amount of chlorine in the water supply to dangerously high levels. The attacks were foiled before any damage could be caused.

Earlier this week, a blacklisted Iranian airline with ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said that it was recently targeted in a cyberattack. Mahan Air claimed to have thwarted the attack, which it said happens routinely.

Illustrative: an Iranian Mahan Air plane lands at the Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, February 4, 2021. (Saeed Kaari/IKAC via AP)

Last month, Iran accused Israel of being behind a cyberattack on the country’s gas stations, knocking them out of service for a week. Without naming a specific country, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi blamed the hack on anti-Iranian forces seeking to sow disorder and disruption.

Days later, an Iranian-linked hacking group, Black Shadow, targeted an Israeli hosting company, temporarily shutting down a number of websites and stealing and releasing user data from “Atraf,” an Israeli LGBT dating site.

Black Shadow also stole a vast trove of information from Israeli insurance company Shirbit last year and then sold it on the dark web when the firm refused to pay a ransom.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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