Accessibility links

Breaking News

Albania Claims New Cyberattack on Day the US Sanctions Iran for July Attack


Members of a special police unit enter the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as Albania cuts ties with Iran and orders diplomats to leave over a cyberattack, in Tirana, Albania, Sept. 8, 2022.
Members of a special police unit enter the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as Albania cuts ties with Iran and orders diplomats to leave over a cyberattack, in Tirana, Albania, Sept. 8, 2022.

Albania said it suffered another cyberattack on the day the U.S. announced sanctions against Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) for an attack launched against Tirana's government computer systems in July.

"The national police's computer systems were hit Friday by a cyberattack which, according to initial information, was committed by the same actors who in July attacked the country's public and government service systems," the ministry said in a statement Saturday, according to Agence France-Presse.

To neutralize the cyberattack, Albanian authorities shut down computer control systems at seaports, airports and border posts, according to the statement.

In a tweet Saturday, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama denounced "another cyberattack (committed by) the same aggressors already condemned by Albania's friendly countries and allies."

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced sanctions against Iran’s MOIS.

“In July 2022, cyber attackers determined to be sponsored by the Government of Iran and its MOIS disrupted Albanian government computer systems, forcing the government to suspend public services for its citizens," Blinken said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the U.S. Treasury Department said in addition to conducting malicious cyber activity against Albanian government websites, the MOIS, led by Minister of Intelligence Esmail Khatib, also committed cyberespionage and ransomware attacks in support of Iran’s political goals.

Iran rejected the accusation it was behind the cyberattack, calling the claim "baseless."

"Iran as one of the target countries of cyberattacks on its critical infrastructure rejects and condemns any use of cyber space as a tool to attack the critical infrastructure of other countries," its foreign ministry said, according to AFP.

The U.S. Treasury statement said Iran also is behind the leaking of documents purported to be from the Albanian government and personal information associated with Albanian residents.

Under the sanctions, the Treasury Department said all property and interests in property belonging to the MOIS and, specifically, Khatib, subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

Iran on Saturday strongly condemned the U.S. sanctions.

"America's immediate support for the false accusation of the Albanian government...shows that the designer of this scenario is not the latter, but the American government," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said in a statement.

Since at least 2007, Iran’s MOIS and its cyberattacking proxies have conducted malicious cyber operations targeting a range of government and private-sector organizations across various critical infrastructure sectors, Blinken said in his statement on Friday.

He said Iran’s cyberattacks can cause grave damage to these governments’ abilities to provide services to civilians and disregard the norms of responsible peacetime state behavior in cyberspace.

Blinken added, “The United States will continue to use all appropriate tools to counter cyberattacks against the United States and our allies.”

Last week, Albania ordered Iranian officials out of the country and severed diplomatic relations with Tehran following an investigation into the July cyberattack.

Tirana described "irrefutable" evidence that Tehran had backed "the act of serious cyberattack against the digital infrastructure of the government of the Republic of Albania."

The Iranian Foreign Ministry denied Tehran was behind any cyberattack on Albanian government websites.

It called the decision to sever diplomatic relations "ill-considered and hasty” and said it was “based on unfounded insinuations."

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect new developments.

RFE/RL contributed to this article. Some information for this article came from Agence France-Presse.

  • 16x9 Image

    VOA News

    The Voice of America provides news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of over 326 million people. Stories with the VOA News byline are the work of multiple VOA journalists and may contain information from wire service reports.

Special Report