x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 December 2017

Iran's oil ministry and main export terminal disconnect internet after hacker attack

Iran has disconnected its oil ministry and its main crude export terminal from the internet to avoid being attacked by computer malware, a semi-official news agency reported yesterday.

TEHRAN // Iran has disconnected its oil ministry and its main crude export terminal from the internet to avoid being attacked by computer malware, a semi-official news agency reported yesterday.

Mehr said an export terminal in Kharg Island and other oil facilities came under attack from malware and hackers but continued their work as usual.

About 80 per cent of Iran's daily 2.2 million barrels of crude export goes through the Kharg facility, located off its southern coast.

Iran says that it is involved in a long-running technological war with the United States and Israel. In recent years, Tehran has repeatedly announced it has defused malware in its industrial sector including the highly specialised Stuxnet in 2010, which it said had targeted the country's nuclear facilities.

This round of cyberattack began on Sunday, Mehr quoted Hamdollah Mohammadnejad, deputy oil minister in charge of civil defence, as saying. He said the ministry and some provincial officers were taken offline, and a special headquarters was set up to confront the attacks.

Earlier this year, head of Iran's civil defence agency, Gholam Reza Jalali, said the energy sector of the country has been a main target of cyber-attacks over the past two years.

Iran has recently announced a series of cyber-defence measures spearheaded by the Revolutionary Guards - a unit that already runs every key military programme in Iran and many industries.

In March, the Guard set up what it claims is a hack-proof communications network for its high-level commanders.

Ultimately, Iran says it wants to set up a completely indigenous internet that is also aimed at checking a "cultural invasion" by enemies aimed at promoting dissent and undermining the ruling system.

The Stuxnet virus was reported to have disrupted controls of some nuclear centrifuges. Tehran says its scientists neutralised the malware and it only damaged the laptops of some personnel at a nuclear power plant.

Iran is at odds with Israel and the West over its controversial nuclear programme. The US and its allies accuse Tehran of wanting to develop weapons technology. Iran denies the claims, saying its programme is for peaceful purposes.

Iran has reported other cyber-attacks since, including an infection in April 2011 dubbed "Stars" and a spy virus about which little is known but its name, "Doku".