Israel-linked cyber attack paralyses Iranian petrol stations

Expert tells The National that attack is intended as warning to show devastating toll Israeli cyber raids could have on arch-enemy Iran

The Israel-linked group that claimed responsibility for the attack said it had taken measures not to disrupt emergency services in Iran. AP
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An Israel-linked hacking group claimed a major cyber attack on Iran’s petrol stations on Monday, which appeared to have left the majority of pumps out of action.

Iranian state media said almost 70 per cent of stations were affected, blaming the country-wide breakdown on software problems.

Gonjeshke Darande, whose name translates to “predatory sparrow” in Farsi, has been widely reported in Israeli media to be linked to Israel's intelligence services.

The hacker group warned Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on its Telegram channel that “this is just a taste of what we have in store”.

It said its operation was “in response to the aggression of the Islamic Republic and its proxies in the region”.

Iran and Israel have been archenemies since the 1979 revolution. Iran frequently states that it intends to destroy Israel.

Tehran's wide network of regional proxies includes Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. On October 7, it launched an assault into southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking roughly 240 hostages.

Retaliatory strikes by Israel and a ground offensive in Gaza have killed almost 20,000 Palestinians. Most of the victims on both sides have been civilians.

Harel Menashri, head of cyber at the Holon Institute of Technology, said the attack, which has not been claimed by Israel, is nonetheless an indication of the country’s huge cyber capabilities.

“Israel tends not to speak about such attacks,” he said.

“You find out about them from the other side, who are more likely to comment in a case such as this one because it is so severe.”

Gonjeshke Darande also said on its Telegram channel that it took measures to ensure that emergency services in Iran were not disrupted.

“We delivered warnings to emergency services across the country before the operation began and ensured a portion of the gas stations across the country were left unharmed for the same reason, despite our access and capability to completely disrupt their operation,” the post read.

The ability to conduct targeted cyber operations in an increasingly digitised world shows a level of sophistication that few countries possess, Mr Menashri added.

“Different types of critical infrastructure are interconnected and you can’t attack one without touching the others,” he explained.

“Therefore, genuinely targeted attacks require a lot of preparation, so that they do not have unintended knock-on effects elsewhere.”

Gonjeshke Darande’s operation is an example of that principle working, Mr Menashri said.

“They did things very carefully, to avoid a crime against humanity – I don’t know many countries that take such measures”

He adds that Israel nonetheless has the power to inflict huge damage on Iran through cyber attacks.

“For those who have cyber capabilities, the goal is ultimately to win entire wars without firing a single shot.”

Updated: December 18, 2023, 9:31 PM