Iran targeted by apparent cyber attack amid protests

Iran targeted by apparent cyber attack amid protests

Iran Protest (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Iran Protest (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The website of Iran’s central bank was briefly taken down on Wednesday as hacker group Anonymous claimed it had targeted the websites of several Iranian government agencies.

The apparent cyber attack came amid days of protests over the death of a woman who was detained by the country’s morality police for allegedly wearing her Islamic headscarf too loosely. It also came hours before Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi was to address the UN General Assembly.

Central bank spokesman Mostafa Qamarivafa denied that the bank itself was hacked, saying only that the website was “unavailable” due to an attack on a server hosting it, in comments carried by the official IRNA news agency. The page was later restored.

The Ministry of Culture’s website was also unavailable on Wednesday afternoon.

The shadowy Anonymous group said it hacked other Iranian state agencies, including state television and the office of the presidential spokesman.

Iran has been the target of several cyber attacks in recent years.

In February, dissident hackers posted an anti-government message on a website that streams state television programs. Last year, an online group released video footage from Iran’s notorious Evin prison that it claimed to have obtained through hacking.

Later that year, a cyber attack devastated gas stations across the country, creating long lines of angry motorists unable to get subsidized fuel for days. Messages accompanying the attack appeared to refer to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Other attacks, which Iran has blamed on Israel, have targeted its nuclear program and industrial sites.

Iranians have been protesting for days over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was arrested by the morality police last week. Police say she died of a heart attack and was not abused, but her family has cast doubt on that account, saying she had no previous heart problems and was prevented from viewing her body.

The UN human rights office says the morality police have stepped up operations in recent months and resorted to more violent methods, including beating women, beating them with batons and pushing them into police vehicles.

Amini’s funeral on Saturday sparked protests in the western Kurdish region, where she came from, that eventually spread across the country and reached the capital, Tehran. The protesters have clashed with the police and chanted against the Islamic Republic itself.

Raisi, who will address the UN General Assembly later on Wednesday, has called for an investigation into Amini’s death. Iranian officials have blamed the protests on unnamed foreign countries that they say are trying to foment unrest.

Iran has seen waves of protests in recent years, mainly over a protracted economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions linked to the country’s nuclear program.

The Biden administration and European allies have been working to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, in which Iran limited its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, but talks have been deadlocked for months.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. It began ramping up its nuclear activities after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 deal, and experts say it now likely has enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb if it chooses to do so.

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