Hackers took control of Iran’s state TV for about 10 seconds on Thursday, broadcasting images that showed the leaders of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) group and a graphic calling for the death of the country’s supreme leader.
Graphics flashed on the screen, interrupting the broadcast as Iran prepared to celebrate the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in February.
The name of a social media account claimed to have been run by the hackers also appeared on the screen.
The clips showed exiled MEK leaders Massoud Rajavi and his wife Maryam Rajavi instead of the channel’s regular 3pm news programming. A man’s voice chanted: “Salute to Rajavi, death to [supreme leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei.”
Massoud Rajavi has not been seen in about two decades and is presumed to have died, although rumours about his disappearance from the public eye continue. Maryam Rajavi now runs the MEK.
The MEK began as a Marxist-Islamist group opposing the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It claimed and was suspected in a series of attacks against US officials in Iran in the 1970s, which the group now denies.
It supported the 1979 Islamic Revolution but soon had a falling-out with former Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and turned against the clerical regime.
It carried out a series of assassinations and bombings in the country. The MEK was listed as a terrorist organisation by the US until 2011 when Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State at the time, removed the group from the list.
The MEK has very little popularity within Iran, mainly due to more recent MEK-backed terrorist attacks as well as the group's support of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war.
Cyber attacks hit Iran
The hack on Thursday was the latest in a recent string of cyber attacks in Iran. In October, the country's fuel stations were hacked, leaving drivers unable to refuel for days.
Iran's infrastructure is vulnerable to hacks, largely due to dated and old hardware and software. Years of sanctions on the country have left it unable to update many of its cyber security systems, leaving much of its infrastructure vulnerable.