Iran petrol stations disrupted in suspected cyber attack

A cyber attack has disrupted the sale of fuel across Iran by targeting its electronic card payment system, according to the state television channel, forcing motorists to form long queues at petrol stations nationwide.

“The attack which took place . . . and was witnessed as a broad disruption had the characteristics of a cyber attack,” Abolhassan Firoozabadi, secretary of the Supreme Council of Cyber Space, told state television on Tuesday evening.

“The disruption was related not to the distribution or production of fuel at all but to the cyber management of petrol stations,” he said. Firoozabadi added that the attack was probably carried out by a “foreign country” but did not name a nation.

The news reports did not suggest who was behind the suspected attack. No group has claimed responsibility for the outage.

The disruption in the online system affected the country’s 4,000 petrol stations, said Keramat Veiskarami, managing director of the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution company. He said some 1,700 stations had begun to operate again within a few hours.

“Our priority [has been] to relaunch the online fuel management system,” he said.

Iran’s oil ministry, meanwhile, said a “software and technical problem” had led it to call “an emergency meeting”. Firoozabadi, in a news broadcast, claimed a “solution has been found”.

The widespread disruption occurred just days before the anniversary of violent, mass protests that followed a rise in fuel prices two years ago. Iranian authorities have in recent months insisted that there will not be another rise in prices, even as global energy prices have soared.

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Videos posted on social media on Tuesday showed placards in the central city of Isfahan that said “Khamenei! Where is our gas?” — a reference to the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Other signs read, “Free gas in Jamaran gas station” — a reference to a petrol station in Tehran near where the founder of the 1979 Islamic revolution once lived.

Earlier this year Iran described an incident at its main uranium enrichment facility as “nuclear terrorism”. The head of the Iran Atomic Energy Agency said the blackout at the underground Natanz site was an act of sabotage.

Iran has reportedly invested heavily in its cyber defence systems in the past few years. Major Gen Hossein Salami, Iran’s most senior Revolutionary Guards commander, said on Tuesday that the guards had made significant progress in developing electronic defence capabilities.

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