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Cyber ​​attack blamed as Iranian gas stations suffer major disruption

TEHRAN, Iran – An apparent cyberattack caused major disruption at gas stations across Iran on Tuesday, just weeks before the second anniversary of deadly protests against rising fuel prices.

Motorists were forced to wait in long lines as those seeking to use government-issued cards, which many Iranians rely on to purchase subsidized fuel, were prevented from doing so.

Instead, they received encrypted messages on gas machines that read: “Cyberattack 64411,” the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

The digits, 64411, also appear to be the number of a phone line connected to the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Speaking to state broadcaster IRIB, Abolhassan Firoozabadi, secretary of Iran’s Supreme Cyberspace Council, said he believed the incident was caused by a cyber attack from a foreign country.

However, he said it was too early to say which country led the attack.

So far, no country or group has claimed responsibility for a cyber attack.

A spokesperson for Iranian oil industry website SHANA told NBC News that it appeared only holders of cards for subsidized fuel were affected.

The problem is expected to be resolved within hours, with fuel still available, but at a higher price, the spokesperson said.

In a message sent to residents on Tuesday evening, Iran’s petroleum ministry said “the technical problem with the smart fuel system will be resolved soon.”

The Oil Ministry has also sought to respond to “rumors of rising gasoline prices”, saying they are “not true”.

The ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.

Neither the Iranian National Oil Refining and Distribution Company nor the Iranian Embassy in London.

The disruption comes weeks before the anniversary of the deadly protests sparked by rising fuel prices in November 2019.

They also came as videos posted on social media purported to show hacked electronic traffic signs to read, “Khamenei, where is our gasoline? addressing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

NBC News was unable to independently verify the videos, but Iranian semi-official Mehr news agency reported that some signs had been hacked.

International sanctions, along with Iran’s political isolation, mean much of the country’s digital infrastructure relies on older, unpatched versions of Western software, said Amir Rashidi, a cybersecurity expert. born in Iran and director of digital rights for Miaan Group, a non-profit organization. which defends the online rights of marginalized groups.

This makes the country particularly vulnerable to hackers, Rashidi said.

John Hultquist, vice president of threat intelligence at cybersecurity firm Mandiant, said there was not yet enough technical data to prove who was behind the attacks.

“I think it’s too early to attribute that,” Hultquist said. However, he said Iran could retaliate if it believes a certain country is responsible for the attack. “

“IOs means perception is reality,” he said.

Iran has said it is on alert for online attacks, which it has blamed on Israel and the United States in the past.

Meanwhile, Iran has been accused by the United States and other Western powers of trying to hack their own networks.

In April, Iran accused Israel of an attack on its underground nuclear facility at Natanz that damaged centrifuges used to enrich uranium.

The Trump administration reportedly waged a campaign of cyberattacks against Iran in 2019 following attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities.

At the time, Iran argued that the United States’ efforts had not been crowned with success.

State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to comment on the apparent cyberattack.

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