(JNS) – Israel was behind a cyberattack on Iran’s fuel distribution system in late October that paralyzed the Islamic Republic’s 4,300 gas stations, according to the New York Times.
The report, published over the weekend, quoted two U.S. defense officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
The attack came on the heels of previous cyberattacks in recent months, which shut down vital services and infrastructure in Iran—from disruptions to traffic lights and train services to water and electric supplies.
No one assumed responsibility for disabling the gas stations or for the previous attacks in Iran. In Tehran, too, officials were careful not to point a finger at the “usual suspects,” although Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said that a country with cyber-capabilities wanted to “make people angry by creating disorder and disruption.”
The foreign and Israeli press had already attributed the cyberattacks to Israel, saying their objective was to apply pressure on the Iranian regime and stall its nuclear progress.
To get the pumps back online, Iran’s Oil Ministry had to send technicians to every gas station in the country, according to the Times. Once the pumps were reset, most stations could still sell only unsubsidized fuel, which is twice the price of subsidized fuel.
It took nearly two weeks to restore the subsidy network, which allots each vehicle 60 liters (about 16 gallons) a month at half price.
However, the alleged Israeli hack may have been more serious than has so far been revealed, according to the Times.
A senior manager in Iran’ Oil Ministry and an oil dealer with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity “to avoid repercussions,” said that officials were alarmed that the hackers had also seized control of the ministry’s fuel storage tanks and may have gained access to data on international oil sales—a state secret that could expose how Iran evades international sanctions.
According to the report, because the oil ministry’s servers contain such sensitive data, the system operates unconnected to the Internet, leading to suspicions among Iranian officials that Israel may have had inside help.