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Iran: Thousands of cyberattacks thwarted every day but recent fires unrelated

Foreign Ministry spokesman says US is the main suspect unless proven otherwise, Tehran reserves right to take retaliatory action

This photo released July 2, 2020, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows a building after it was damaged by a fire, at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)
This photo released July 2, 2020, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows a building after it was damaged by a fire, at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)

A spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the country thwarts thousands of cyberattacks every day, with the US as the main suspect, but that recent fires at a number of sensitive Iranian sites were unrelated to those alleged efforts by foreign governments.

Abbas Mousavi said that recently the cyberattacks have increased in scope and have been traced back to foreign governments.

“Recent fires have nothing to do with cyberattacks,” Mousavi said, according to the official Mehr news agency. “It is very natural to say that from now on, the US government will be the main suspect of any cyberattack waged on Iran, unless it is proven otherwise.”

Mousavi also said that none of the recent attacks have achieved their goals, without giving further details, the official IRNA news agency reported, and added that Iran reserved the right to respond using any means necessary.

In this May 28, 2019 photo, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi speaks at a press conference in Tehran, Iran (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

“Thousands of cyberattacks are conducted against country’s infrastructures on a daily basis, which is nothing new; most of them are repelled without any effect by our advanced and sophisticated defense systems and computer disaster response teams,” Mousavi said according to Mehr.

Mousavi’s comments came a day after an Iranian lawmaker said that a recent blast and fire at the Natanz nuclear site was caused by a “security breach.”

The July 2 blast and subsequent fire at facility was one of a series of mysterious explosions at Iranian strategic sites in recent weeks, which have been largely attributed to either Washington, Jerusalem, or both.

MP Javad Karimi Qoddousi, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee, ruled out “a strike on the complex by an external object” as the cause of the blast, appearing to deny the possibility of a missile attack or airstrike.

“If it was from the outside, we should have seen shrapnel, but there are absolutely no remnants left on the site,” he said, according to Radio Farda.

Qoddousi did not elaborate on what he meant by a “security breach.” Radio Farda noted the Persian term he used can also be translated as an infiltration of security, suggesting the blast came from inside the building.

Iranian lawmaker Javad Karimi Qoddousi questions Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in an open session of parliament in Tehran, Iran, October 2, 2016. (AP)

According to a New York Times report earlier this month, the blast was most likely the result of a bomb planted at the facility, potentially at a strategic gas line, but that it was not out of the question that a cyberattack was used to cause a malfunction that led to the explosion.

The explosion at Natanz has been attributed to Israel by US media reports, and is said to have damaged an advanced centrifuge development and assembly plant.

Israel and Iran are bitter foes and have engaged in years of covert battles that have included high-tech hacking and cyber attacks. Iran’s leaders routinely call for the elimination of Israel, and Israel alleges that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons in order to carry out that goal. Most famously, US and Israeli intelligence agencies are suspected of unleashing a computer worm called Stuxnet years ago in an attempt to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.

Most recently, according to reports in Israeli and Western media outlets, Iran tried to hack into Israel’s water system in April and poison the water by increasing chlorine levels in water flowing to residential areas.

In response, Israel on May 9 allegedly launched a cyberattack against Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port.

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