'Very Big' Foreign Cyber Strike Thwarted, Iranian Minister Says

In September, Iran reviewed preparedness for cyberattacks, following media reports of Washington weighing possible attack on Tehran

Illustration: A man typing on a computer keyboard in front of the displayed cyber code.
\ Kacper Pempel/ REUTERS

Iran has foiled a major cyberattack on its infrastructure that was launched by a foreign government, the Iranian telecoms minister said on Wednesday, two months after reports of a U.S. cyber operation against the country.

U.S. officials told Reuters in October that the United States had carried out a secret cyber strike on Iran after the September 14 attacks on Saudi oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh blamed on Tehran. Iran denied involvement in the attacks, which were claimed by Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement.

"We recently faced a highly organized and state-sponsored attack on our e-government infrastructure which was...repelled by the country's security shield," Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi, Iran's minister for communications and information technology, was quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency as saying.

"It was a very big attack," Azari-Jahromi said, adding that details would be revealed later.

It was not clear whether Azari-Jahromi was referring to the U.S. cyberattack, which U.S. officials said took place in late September and targeted Tehran's ability to spread "propaganda".

Asked about Reuters' October report of a cyberattack, Azari-Jahromi said then: "They must have dreamt it."

In late September, Iran reviewed security measures at its key Gulf oil and gas facilities, including preparedness for cyberattacks, following media reports of Washington weighing possible cyberattacks on Tehran.

The reported U.S. cyber strike highlighted how President Donald Trump's administration has been trying to counter what it sees as Iranian aggression while avoiding an outright military conflict.

Iran has long been on alert over the threat of cyberattacks from abroad. The United States and Israel covertly sabotaged Iran's disputed nuclear program in 2009 and 2010 with the Stuxnet computer virus, which destroyed a number of Iranian centrifuges that were enriching uranium.

Tensions in the Gulf have escalated sharply since Trump last year withdrew from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed trade and financial sanctions on Tehran.