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Gas stations across Iran suffer outage in possible cyberattack

Video reportedly shot in the Iranian city of Ishfan shows a billboard with message reading "Khamenei, where is our gasoline?" amid a possible cyberattack affecting gas stations across Iran, October 26, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)
Video reportedly shot in the Iranian city of Ishfan shows a billboard with message reading "Khamenei, where is our gasoline?" amid a possible cyberattack affecting gas stations across Iran, October 26, 2021. (Screen capture: Twitter)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Gas stations across Iran suffer through a widespread outage of a government system governing fuel subsidies, stopping sales in an incident that one semiofficial news agency refers to as a cyberattack.

An Iranian state television account online shares images of long lines of cars waiting to fill up in Tehran. An Associated Press journalist also sees lines of cars at a Tehran gas station, with the pumps off and the station closed.

State TV doesn’t explain what the issue is, but says Oil Ministry officials are holding an “emergency meeting” to solve the technical problem.

The semiofficial ISNA news agency, which calls the incident a cyberattack, says it saw those trying to buy fuel with a government-issued card through the machines instead receive a message reading “cyberattack 64411.” Most Iranians rely on those subsidies to fuel their vehicles, particularly amid the country’s economic problems.

While ISNA doesn’t acknowledge the number’s significance, that number is associated to a hotline run through the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that handles questions about Islamic law. ISNA later removed its reports.

Farsi-language satellite channels abroad publish videos apparently shot by drivers in Isfahan, a major Iranian city, showing electronic billboards there reading: “Khamenei! Where is our gas?” Another says: “Free gas in Jamaran gas station,” a reference to the home of the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

No group immediately claims responsibility for the outage. However, the use of the number “64411” mirrors an attack in July targeting Iran’s railroad system that also saw the number displayed. Israeli cybersecurity firm Check Point later attributed the train attack to a group of hackers that called themselves Indra, after the Hindu god of war.

Indra previously targeted firms in Syria, where President Bashar Assad has held onto power through Iran’s intervention in his country’s grinding war.

Iran has faced a series of cyberattacks, including one that leaked video of abuses its notorious Evin prison in August.

The country disconnected much of its government 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.

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