Albania blames Iran for renewed cyber attack

National police computer systems were hit on Friday 'by the same actors who in July attacked the country's public and government service systems'

Members of the scientific police unit enter the building that housed the embassy of Iran in Tirana, Albania, on Thursday. AFP
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Albania has come under a renewed cyber attack, the country's Interior Ministry said on Saturday, blaming Iran.

The government on Wednesday also accused Tehran of a previous assault on its digital systems.

"The national police's computer systems were hit on Friday by a cyber attack which, according to initial information, was committed by the same actors who in July attacked the country's public and government service systems," authorities said.

The attempted attack came on the same day the US announced sanctions on Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security and its minister Esmail Khatib over Tehran's alleged involvement in the July attack.

"Iran's cyber attack against Albania disregards norms of responsible peacetime state behaviour in cyber space, which includes a norm on refraining from damaging critical infrastructure that provides services to the public," Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement released on Friday.

"We won’t tolerate cyberattacks targeting the US or our allies’ interests, infrastructure, or services," Secretary of state Antony Blinken said on Twitter.

Albania experienced a major cyber attack on July and the government’s main websites and those of public institutions were shut down.

Albania cut diplomatic relations with Iran and ordered Iranian diplomats and embassy staff to leave within 24 hours after an investigation into the cyber attack, Prime Minister Edi Rama said earlier this month.

“The government has decided with immediate effect to end diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Mr Rama said.

At the time, authorities said that a “wide and complex” cyber attack started in the afternoon of July 15, after which all government infrastructure and systems were isolated.

It started as a ransomware attack in which the hackers tried to hit critical systems, aiming to break them down, Albania said.

The government said the “method used by the hackers was identical with last year’s attacks seen in the international cyberspace”, mentioning those in Ukraine, Germany, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands and Belgium.

The digital attacks aimed at Albania came before the World Summit of Free Iran, a conference scheduled to convene in the town of Manez in western Albania on July 23-24.

The summit was affiliated with the Iranian opposition group the People’s Mujahideen Organisation of Iran.

With reporting from wires

Updated: September 11, 2022, 10:19 AM