Iranian Petrol Stations Suffer A Massive Attack

A significant cyber attack has hit Iran’s online petrol distribution system, affecting fuel stations across the country and causing long lines of frustrated motorists.

Iranian news sources have said that a foreign country was probably behind the attack and n Iranian state television account online has shared images of long queues of cars waiting to fill up in Tehran.

The Iranian ISNA news agency, which called the incident a cyber attack, said it saw those trying to buy fuel with a government-issued card through the machines instead receive a message reading 'cyber attack 64411'. 

Most Iranians rely on those subsidies to fuel their vehicles, particularly amid the country’s economic problems.
The widespread attack came shortly before the second anniversary of the November 2019 nationwide protests against an overnight petrol price rise. At the time, petrol prices as much as tripled, sparking the protests that Amnesty International has said led to the deaths of more than 300 people.

Internet access was also shut down across the country for almost a week during the protests. Some areas where protests were still continuing experienced weeks of internet disruptions.

With the details still unclear there is speculation about whether the purported attack came from the US, Israel or from local Iranian anti-regime groups. According to reports, messages were posted in some systems that were hacked, addressing Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly and demanding to know, “Where is the gas?” The attack comes some two years after nationwide protests over gas shortages in fall 2019... The disruption at the refueling system of gas stations... in the past few hours, was caused by a cyber attack,” the state Iranian national  broadcaster said. “Technical experts are fixing the problem and soon the refueling process... will return to normal.”

The Oil Ministry said only sales with smart cards used for cheaper, rationed gasoline were disrupted and that clients could still buy fuel at higher rates.

Possible Retaliation

Iran recently carried out a complex and coordinated strike on US forces in Syria using up to five armed drones to attack a strategic point near the Jordan-Iraq border. The attack was the latest in a series of drone strikes on US forces. In a press briefing recently, the US Envoy on Iran mentioned possible US action to deter Iranian aggression in the region. although he declined to elaborate what those actions might be.

The US is considered to be the world’s most potent cyber power but it has often been hesitant to use its offensive cyber capabilities against groups other than ISIS, for fear of cyber retaliation.

Under the Trump administration, the US did hack major Iranian intelligence maritime operations to deter Iran from attacking American allies at sea. The Biden administration is not thought to have  done so to date, although Israel has reportedly hacked Iran’s Shahid Rajaee Port on May 9, 2020, as a counter strike for an attempted Iranian cyber strike on Israel’s water supply system

Iran has also accused the Mossad, the US and European intelligence agencies of using the STUXNET virus to hack its Natanz nuclear facility in 2009-2010.

Former an Israeli Security Agency official said that there was a good chance that a nation-state actor could carry out such a broad and successful attack, however, recent events have  shown that amateur hackers can cause major disruption to the US and European powers with sophisticated ransomware and other means. 

In August, Check Point Software Technologies issued a report stating that an Iranian dissident group called Indra, not Israel, executed the large scale attack on the Islamic Republic’s train system in July. Check Point said Indra’s hack was “an example for governments around the world of how a single group can create disruption on critical infrastructure.” 

If non-state groups are traditionally thought of as lacking the capability to do more than hack websites and data, this was an example of such a non-state group causing profound real-world damage.

Indra’s tools destroyed data without direct means to recover it by using a “wiper,” or malware designed to wipe the entire data system of critical infrastructure, making the recovery process complicated, locking users out of machines, changing passwords, and replacing wallpapers to custom messages crafted by the attackers. The hack included posting of fake messages about train delays and cancellations on display boards across Iran.

JPost:     Heimdal Security:       Al Jazeera:       KashmirWalla:      Bloomberg:      Oodaloop

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