Albania cuts ties to Iran, blaming it for massive cyberattack

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The Balkan state of Albania is breaking diplomatic ties with Iran over an alleged cyberattack that investigators traced to the Islamic republic.

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s administration ordered all Iranian diplomats and staff from the capital Tirana within 24 hours, citing the July 15 attack on Albania’s digital infrastructure.

In a speech, Mr Rama said a week-long investigation into the attack led to Tehran.

“Without a shadow of doubt, the July 15 attack on Albania was not an individual operation or a concerted action by independent criminal groups, but a state-sponsored aggression,” he said, adding that investigators uncovered “indisputable evidence” that Iran Near ” carried out and sponsored the attack through four groups.

Iran has not yet responded to the allegations.

Although Russia and China have repeatedly seen relations with other countries strained due to alleged nefarious Internet operations, the breach between Tirana and Tehran may be the first time that a country has taken such a drastic step on a cyberattack. .

“This is one of the strongest responses we’ve seen to a cyberattack in many years,” said Toby Lues, global head of threat analysis at security firm Darktrace. “This is the first time I’ve seen this level of growth.”

Mr Rama acknowledged that Albania’s response was “extreme”, but described it as “fully proportionate to the severity and risk of cyberattacks” that have crippled public services, eroded digital systems and crippled the state. Threatened to hack records, steal government intranet electronic communications and spread chaos. Insecurity in the country.”

Even as Russia at First Suspects, Cyber ​​Security Firm Mandiant alleged In an August 4 report, Iran was the likely culprit behind the July 15 attack, citing the type of hacking tools used and their presence during previous operations.

In a statement, the US said it had a role in the investigation and condemned the attack, vowing to take “further action to hold Iran accountable” for endangering the security of the NATO ally.

White House National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson said: “Iran’s conduct defies norms of responsible peaceful state behavior in cyberspace, including avoiding damage to critical infrastructure that provides services to the public.” “

Both Iran and US partner Israel have been accused of launching cyberattacks against each other’s civilian infrastructure, attacking ports, water features and dating websites.

Iran’s ambassador and three other diplomats have been expelled in recent years on charges of disruptive behavior and espionage.

Tehran has had strained relations with Tirana since Albania agreed in 2014 to shelter 3,000 members of a formerly armed Iraq-based opposition group as part of a deal negotiated by the US.

The group, known as the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, uses mysteriously obtained funds to set up a massive complex west of Tirana, where it targets the Iranian regime as well as independent scholars and journalists. Conducts an online promotional campaign.

The group, which has recruited senior Western politicians as champions, was scheduled to hold a conference in Albania on July 23, a week before the cyberattack. On July 22, the organizers abruptly canceled the event citing the possibility of terrorist attacks.

Since the US and Israel launched a Stuxnet virus attack on Iran’s nuclear program in 2010, Tehran has stepped up its cyber warfare activities in a growing cycle of tit-for-tat operations.

Mr Rama described the 15 July attack as a failure that caused minimal damage to Albania. He claimed that one of the groups allegedly used by Tehran to attack Albania was involved in previous operations against Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait and Cyprus.

Iran reportedly used third parties to launch the attacks, but Mr. Ram’s overwhelming response suggests intelligence services had a hand in locating those groups in Tehran.

“If you look at attacks by Iran in the past, you start to see a lot more use of contractors and private sector organizations,” Lewis said. “That final link that links these organizations to the Iranian regime is a difficult one. It’s a difficult leap to make and it comes from the intelligence community.”

Mr Rama said Albania’s NATO allies have been informed of the investigation.

Albania has struggled to strengthen its cyber security.

In 2018, independent Reported that the country was inadvertently posting sensitive information about itself…

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