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Most Iran gas stations still offline three days after cyberattack

Of 4,300 fuel stations across Islamic Republic, 1,450 have been reconnected to central fuel distribution system, authorities say, following attack they blame on foreign state

A worker leans against a gasoline pump that has been turned off, at a gas station in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
A worker leans against a gasoline pump that has been turned off, at a gas station in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Iran’s subsidized fuel distribution system was partially restored Friday, though a majority of services remained grounded, three days after an unprecedented cyberattack by unknown perpetrators, authorities said.

Among 4,300 fuel stations across the country, “at present, 1,450 are connected to the central fuel distribution system,” said Fatemeh Kahi, a spokeswoman for the National Oil Products Distribution Company.

A further 2,350 stations were delivering unsubsidized fuel to motorists, she told state news agency IRNA.

Shortly after the disruption, which crippled Iran’s fuel distribution network and left frustrated motorists stranded, Iranian authorities had said the system would be fully up and running as soon as Wednesday.

Motorists in Iran who want to take advantage of substantial fuel subsidies must use digital cards issued by the authorities.

The cards provide monthly allowances for fuel at the subsidized rate, after which they must pay the open rate.

Tuesday’s mysterious cyberattack wrought havoc with that accounting and distribution system.

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

Iran last year was the fifth-biggest producer in the OPEC cartel.

Authorities said Tuesday the results of an investigation into the alleged attack would be ready within 10 days, and that it may have originated from outside Iran.

President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday said that his country must be “seriously prepared” against cyberattacks.

Raisi said that the attack was designed to get “people angry by creating disorder and disruption.”

Abolhassan Firoozabadi, a top official in Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace, told state broadcaster IRIB on Wednesday that the attack had apparently been carried out by a foreign country, though it was too early to name suspects. He also linked the attack to another one that targeted Iran’s rail system in July, in comments reported by the IRNA.

The next day, an official tweeted in Hebrew that the “enemy’s goal” of fomenting unrest through gas shortages had been thwarted.

“Although the defenses of the passive frontline were inactivated by a cyber attack, the rear guard thwarted enemy’s goal of rioting in Iran through coordinated and timely action by the executive, security and communication agencies,” tweeted Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, in his second tweet this week in Hebrew, English, Arabic and Persian.

Cars wait in line to fill up at a gas station because pumps machines are out of service, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

“Intelligent management in October 2021 reveals the recklessness of October 2019,” he said, presumably referring to the deadly fuel riots that took place at the end of 2019 in Iran.

Iran has in the past blamed Israel for provoking unrest during protests. In July, Iran claimed to have arrested a Mossad cell that planned to provoke violence during demonstrations over water shortages in the country.

In 2010 the Stuxnet virus — believed to have been engineered by Israel and the US — infected Iran’s nuclear program, causing a series of breakdowns in centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

Iran disconnected much of its infrastructure from the internet after the Stuxnet virus.

In 2019 Iran said that no cyberattack against the Islamic Republic had ever succeeded after American media reported the US launched one during a standoff between the two countries. The Iranian telecommunications minister acknowledged at the time that Iran had “been facing cyber terrorism.”

In August, a cyberattack led to the leaking of a video of abuses at Iran’s notorious Evin prison.

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