Suspected Overseas Cyberattack Shuts Down Iran Gas Stations

Close up of car with Iran Flag on Fuel Cap with a Fuel Pipe

On Tuesday, October 26, Iran’s state media reported that a cyberattack targeted and shut down gas stations across the country. The nation’s state media said that Iran’s Supreme National Security Council confirmed the hack and that its origins and other details are under investigation.

A senior government official said that the attack possibly originated from outside the country, adding that it was too soon to name suspects.

The attack disrupted Iran’s government-issued electronic card system, which people rely on to buy fuel at a heavily subsidized rate. Reports also claim that long queues had formed outside gas stations, with motorists growing increasingly frustrated with the situation.

Many rely on these subsidies for their vehicles, and the increase in prices has led to major protests in the past. Citizens are entitled to a certain amount of government-subsidized fuel every month.

Current Status of Gas Stations across Iran

The attack targeted 4,300 gas stations in the country. As of Wednesday, October 27, it is unclear how many gas stations have resumed normal operations. A government official told IRNA news agency, a state-run media outlet, that 80% of the affected pumps are functional.

However, Fatemeh Kahi, a spokesperson for the National Oil Products Distribution Company, stated that only 220 out of 4,300 stations were reconnected. She added that 3,000 stations can be used offline, but at open market rates. This means that people will have to pay full price instead of the subsidized rate.

Motorists in the nation rely on fuel subsidies as the country continues to deal with global economic sanctions. On Tuesday, The country’s Interior Minister Ahmed Vahidi assured people that there were no plans to raise fuel prices.

According to Javad Owji, Iran’s oil minister, all gas stations are expected to be online by Wednesday afternoon.

Iran Government Suspects Attack Originated from Outside the Country

Abolhassan Firoozabadi, a high-ranking member of Iran‘s Supreme Council of Cyberspace, suspects a foreign nation’s role in the attack. He added that the attack was similar to one in July which targeted the country’s rail system.

The attack took place a few weeks before the two-year anniversary of massive nation-level protests. On November 15, 2019, the country witnessed widespread protests in opposition to a sudden 50% increase in fuel prices. The protests are described as “Iran’s most vocal eruption of public dissent in a decade.”

In April this year, a nuclear facility in Natanz faced a cyberattack. In that instance, Iranian officials blamed Israel for the incident.

Technology policy researcher
Prateek is a technology policy researcher with a background in law. His areas of interest include data protection, privacy, digital currencies, and digital literacy. Outside of his research interests, Prateek is an avid reader and is engaged in projects on sustainable farming practices in India.