Israel is suspected to be behind the cyberattack on Iranian port

Pierluigi Paganini May 20, 2020

Israel is likely behind the recent cyberattack which disrupted some operations at Iran’s Shahid Rajaei Port, located near the Strait of Hormuz.

A couple of weeks ago, Iranian officials announced that hackers damaged a small number of systems at the port of Shahid Rajaei in the city of Bandar Abbas.

Bandar Abbas is the capital of Hormozgān Province on the southern coast of Iran, on the Persian Gulf. The city occupies a strategic position on the narrow Strait of Hormuz, and it is the location of the main base of the Iranian Navy. Bandar Abbas is also the capital and largest city of Bandar Abbas County.

Iranian officials did not reveal details of the cyber attack that took place on May 9, two days before Iranian officials disclosed the incident.

Local authorities, including the Ports and Maritime Organization (PMO) in the state of Hormozgan, confirmed that operations at the port were impacted by the cyber attack.

Initially, officials denied the cyber-attack, but due to media pressure that later admitted the cyber intrusion.

The authorities did not attribute the attack to a specific threat actor, Iran’s Deputy Minister of Roads and Urban Development stated that he did not have any information about the origin of the attack.

“Currently, the distribution of cargo in northern ports is good; although the performance of all southern ports is negative.” Mohammad Rastad.

Rastad told Fars News Agency that the attack was carried out by a foreign governenment.

Now a foreign government security official said the attack was “highly accurate” and the damages caused to the Iranian infrastructure were greater than described in official Iranian accounts.

The news was reported by The Washington Post, which blamed Israel for the cyber attack that was launched in retaliation for an earlier cyberattack on rural water distribution systems in Israel.

In April, the Israeli government has issued an alert to organizations in the water sector following a series of cyberattacks that targeted the water facilities.

Earlier May, Israel’s security cabinet discussed alleged Iranian cyberattack on Israeli water and sewage facilities that fortunately did not cause serious damage. The attack demonstrates an escalation by the Iranians, because they targeted civilian infrastructure.

“This was a very unordinary cyberattack against civilian water facilities which is against every ethic and every code even in times of war,” a senior Israeli official told Channel 13. “We didn’t expect this even from the Iranians. It is just not done.”Iran reported three cyberattacks within one week back in December. At least one of the attacks was allegedly “state-sponsored.”

Israel’s National Cyber Directorate announced to have received reports of cyber attacks aimed at supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems at wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations and sewage facilities.

The recent attack could be a response of the Israeli cyber army against the wave of attacks that targeted Israely water sector.

“Israel appears to be behind a cyberattack earlier this month on computers at Iran’s Shahid Rajaee port that caused massive backups on waterways and roads leading to the facility, the Washington Post reported on Monday.” reads the report published by the Reuters.

“Citing unnamed U.S. and foreign government officials, the Post said the May 9 disruption of Iranian computers was presumably in retaliation for an earlier attempted cyberattack on rural water distribution systems in Israel.”

The Reuters agency contacted the Israeli Embassy in Washington for a comment by it has yet to respond.

In December 2019, Iran foiled two massive cyber-attacks in less than a week, the country’s telecommunications minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi revealed.

The news was reported by both the ISNA and Mehr news agencies, the Iranian minister defined the attacks as “really massive” and attributed them to a nation-state actor.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – Iran, hacking)

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