Iran says it staved off cyber attack but doesn't blame US

Here's a rundown of some of the Middle East's cyber argy-bargy

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Iran claims to have staved off a major cyber attack on its national infrastructure, a couple of months after the Middle Eastern theocracy was blamed for real-world assaults on two Saudi oil refineries.

"We recently faced a highly organized and state-sponsored attack on our e-government infrastructure which was successfully identified and repelled by the country's security shield," Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi, Iran's ICT minister, was quoted as saying yesterday.

He specifically did not blame a particular country, adding: "I can't say the attack was carried out by which country right now."

Separately, the United Nations said yesterday it couldn't tell whether or not the Islamic Republic was involved in two attacks which used military drones and missiles to destroy parts of Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq oil-processing facility and the Khurais oilfield.

The BBC reported that UN secretary general Antonio Guterres wrote in a report about the attacks: "At this time, [the UN] is unable to independently corroborate that the cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles used in these attacks are of Iranian origin."

Iran and Saudi Arabia are both heavily dependent on petrochemical exports. Nobbling a rival's oil-processing capabilities has obvious economic advantages. Likewise, a third party with an interest in setting both nations at each other's throats could also do such a thing. Attribution carries far more weight in this scenario than just another line on a spreadsheet of whodunnits.

Meanwhile, Iran and the US have been at cyber loggerheads ever since the Stuxnet attack, first uncovered in 2010, thought to have been jointly developed by American and Israeli spies in order to disrupt Iran's nuclear weapons programme.

In October Reuters reported that US officials told its journalists they had staged a cyber attack against Iran, something Azari-Jahromi denied when asked about it at the time.

Also in October, British and American spies claimed an "Iranian" hacker crew was actually a bunch of Russians leaving false flags in their wake. Just in case anyone got the idea that this was a straightforward tit-for-tat you-hack-me-I'll-hack-you, the US and Brit agents claimed Russia had stolen actual Iranian hacking tools and deployed them itself.

Continuing back along the line of US-Iranian cyber aggression, America's Department of Homeland Security wailed in June that Iranians had hacked their IT infrastructure in order to wipe large chunks of it, which at the time was thought to be the Iranian way of sending a message to the US about its cyber capabilities.

Meanwhile, completely aside from the international flinging of cyber bog rolls at each other, fed-up Iranian officials turned off the country's internet in November after locals started rioting when fuel prices jumped 50 per cent.

Whoever was to blame for the latest attack on Iran, it certainly won't be the last. ®

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