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Iran struggles to reopen gas stations after cyberattack

Cars and motorbikes line up to fill up at a service station in Iran's capital Tehran, on October 26, 2021, amid a nationwide disruption of the gas distribution system. (Atta Kenare/AFP)
Cars and motorbikes line up to fill up at a service station in Iran's capital Tehran, on October 26, 2021, amid a nationwide disruption of the gas distribution system. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran struggles to restart its gas distribution system after it was hit by an unprecedented cyber-attack which security officials say was launched from abroad.

The unclaimed attack crippled the country’s system of government-issued electronic cards which motorists use to purchase heavily subsidized fuel.

Long lines have formed outside gas stations, angering drivers in a country already suffering under tough economic sanctions over its nuclear dispute with major powers.

“Guys, can you tell me where we can get gasoline in the east, northeast or even north of Tehran?” one user asks on Twitter.

Of Iran’s 4,300 gas stations connected to the system, only 220 had been reconnected, Fatemeh Kahi, a spokeswoman for the National Oil Products Distribution Company, tells the official IRNA news agency today.

However, she adds, “nearly 3,000 stations can distribute fuel offline, but at the open price” — the rate consumers must pay once they have used up their monthly allowance of subsidized fuel.

The conservative Fars news agency linked the breakdown to opponents ahead of the second anniversary of deadly protests sparked by a hike in gas prices.

Fars reported yesterday that “a campaign carried out by counter-revolutionary media” ahead of the November 15, 2019, anniversary “reinforces the possibility of a cyber attack.”

On that date two years ago the announcement of a sudden increase in fuel prices triggered protests in dozens of locations across the country. It was Iran’s most vocal eruption of public dissent in a decade.

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