Iran Blames US for Cyber-Attack on Oil Ministry

The head of Iran’s cyber police (FATA) claimed this week that the force stopped a US-led cyber-attack on the country’s oil ministry, according to local reports.

The attack is thought to have come during a local four-day holiday period in March, according to a report from the state-controlled Fars news agency.

“These hackers were from the US and we informed them (the US officials) of the issue in an official letter and also issued an international judicial order and the issue is now being pursued by the foreign ministry,” brigadier general Seyed Kamal Hadianfar is quoted as saying.

If true, it’s not the first time the oil ministry has been hit by hackers. It was the target of an attack in 2012 which damaged users’ hard drives, the report claimed.

Iran operates a similar policy to China regarding cybersecurity – denying all accusations that it has ever perpetrated state-sponsored online attacks and instead accusing other nations of targeting its institutions and businesses.

It’s true that the country’s nuclear facility at Natanz was hit by the now infamous Stuxnet worm back in 2009 – an effort backed by Israel and the US. That attack managed to disrupt the country’s nuclear arms program by causing centrifuges to speed up.

However, in return, Iran has been ramping up its own cyber capabilities.

A report from threat intelligence firm Cylance in December pegged the country as “the new China” after unveiling a major new targeted attack campaign – Operation Cleaver – designed to steal military and defense secrets.

The same operatives were accused of hacking classified US Navy computers in 2013.

It’s also thought that state-backed hackers could have been behind a notorious 2012 attack on oil giant Saudi Aramco – which used the Shamoon virus in one of the first recorded instances of a mass destructive malware attack.

Iran was also blamed for a destructive cyber-attack on the Sands casino group back in February 2014.

That online blitz took out key servers and PCs and wiped hard drives, forcing panicked IT staff to rip out network cabling to try and prevent it spreading through the organization. 

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