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Cyberattack disrupts gas stations across Iran, government says

Iran Gas Station (Asadi s/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Gas stations across Iran experienced widespread disruptions on a government system managing fuel subsidies, in what state television said was a cyberattack.

State TV quoted an official with Iran’s National Security Council confirming the October 26 attack on the gasoline-distribution computer system amid reports of long lines at stations, many of which were closed.

The Oil Ministry said only the sale of subsidized gas using a smart card was disrupted and people could still buy fuel at higher prices.

Earlier, state media IRNA cited an Interior Ministry spokesman as saying the incident was caused by a “technical problem” in the subsidized fuel card system as authorities sought to deny there as a cyberattack.

The semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted the president of the country’s gas station owners’ association as saying there was a cyberattack, but the news was later deleted and replaced with comments about a software problem.

Meanwhile, Oil Ministry officials were holding an “emergency meeting” to solve the problem, describing the outage as temporary.

Social-media videos showed electronic street billboards in some cities, including Tehran, displaying messages directed at Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei: “Khamenei, where’s our fuel?”

ISNA said those trying to buy fuel with a government-issued card through the machines instead received a message reading “cyberattack 64411.” The news was later deleted but social media users reported similar messages.

That number is the hotline operated by the office of the supreme leader that handles questions about Islamic law.

The incident comes as Iran marks the anniversary of November 2019 protests, which were sparked by an increase in the price of subsidized gas but quickly expanded into nationwide anti-government protests.

Security forces responded to the protests with a violent crackdown, with Amnesty International identifying at least 304 killed. Mojtaba Zonoor, the head of Iran’s parliamentary national security committee, said 230 were killed. Unconfirmed reports put the number of protesters killed at up to 1,500.