Iran says it defused 2nd cyberattack in less than a week

Iran says it defused 2nd cyberattack in less than a week

Minister claims attack was ‘aimed at spying on government intelligence,’ just days after ‘massive’ assault was blocked; says hackers were tracked

Illustrative image of a hacker and online fraud (scyther5; iStock by Getty Images)
Illustrative image of a hacker and online fraud (scyther5; iStock by Getty Images)

Iran’s telecommunications minister announced on Sunday that the country had defused a second cyberattack in less than a week, this time “aimed at spying on government intelligence.”

Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said in a short Twitter post that the alleged attack was “identified and defused by a cybersecurity shield,” and that the “spying servers were identified and the hackers were also tracked.” He did not elaborate.

It was not clear if the attack caused any damage or disruptions in Iran’s computer and internet systems, and whether it was the latest chapter in the US and Iran’s ongoing cyber operations targeting the other.

Last Wednesday, Jahromi told the official IRNA news agency that a “massive” and “governmental” cyberattack targeted Iran’s electronic infrastructure. He provided no specifics on the purported attack except to say it was also defused and that a report would be released.

Iran’s telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi is interviewed by The Associated Press at his office in Tehran, Iran, July 7, 2019. (Vahid Salemi/AP)

He also said the “security attack was very large” and that authorities were investigating its exact dimensions. Jahromi said he could not reveal any further details beyond saying that the “attack has been identified and defused.”

“I cannot give details but yes, we were targeted by a very organized and governmental cyber attack,” he said. “We are looking into the attack’s different dimensions and will release a report on it. It was a massive attack.”

On Tuesday, the minister dismissed reports of hacking operations targeting Iranian banks, including local media reports that accounts of millions of customers of Iranian banks were hacked.

“Banks were not hacked,” he said, adding that the rumors evolved from a blackmailing case by a former contractor who had managed to “access complex information.”

Iran 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 June, 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 Persian Gulf.

Jahromi himself was sanctioned by the US late last month for what officials described as “his role in the regime’s widespread internet censorship.”

Tensions have escalated between the US and Iran ever since Trump withdrew America last year from the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran and began a policy of “maximum pressure.” Iran has since been hit by multiple rounds of sanctions.

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