October 2, 2022

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Albania cuts ties with Iran over cyber attack, US pledges more measures

Albania cuts ties with Iran over cyber attack, US pledges more measures

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TIRANA (Reuters) – Albania cut diplomatic ties with Iran on Wednesday and expelled its diplomats after a July cyber attack it blamed on the Islamic Republic, a move Washington backed while pledging action in response to the attack on Iran. NATO ally.

Albania ordered Iranian diplomats and embassy staff to leave within 24 hours.

“The government has decided with immediate effect to terminate diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Prime Minister Edi Rama said in a video statement.

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“This extreme response … fits perfectly with the gravity and risks of a cyber attack that has threatened to paralyze public services, erase digital systems and hack state records, steal government electronic communications on the intranet, and create chaos and insecurity in the country,” Rama said.

There was no immediate comment from the Iranian embassy in Tirana. There were no police units around the Iranian embassy in Tirana.

The United States said it had concluded after weeks of investigation that Iran was behind the “reckless and irresponsible” cyber attack on July 15.

“The United States will take further action to hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a US ally and set a troubling precedent for cyberspace,” the White House National Security Council said in a statement.

Tension relations since 2014

Relations between Albania and Iran have been strained since 2014, when Albania accepted about 3,000 members of the opposition-in-exile group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, also known by its Persian name, the People’s Mojahedin Organization, who settled in a camp near Durrës, the country. The main port.

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US cybersecurity firm Mandiant, which cited the hacking activity in a blog post earlier this month, said the group – which has links to Iran – launched a sophisticated attack that used data-scavenging malware against Iranian dissidents.

“This is perhaps the most powerful public response to a cyberattack we have ever seen,” John Holtquist, Vice President of Intelligence at Mandiant, said in an emailed statement. While we have seen a range of other diplomatic consequences in the past, they have not been as severe or broad as such action. “.

The move comes days after the NATO member state of Montenegro blamed a criminal group called “Cuba Ransomware” for a digital attack on its government infrastructure that officials there described as unprecedented.

“Although the incidents may be unrelated, regular disruptions to government infrastructure are an alarming trend,” said Holtquist.

Albania has previously said it has thwarted several planned attacks by Iranian agents against the Iranian opposition group.

“The in-depth investigation provided us with indisputable evidence that the cyber attack on our country was orchestrated and sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran by involving four groups that carried out the aggression,” Rama said.

The White House said the US government has been working on the ground for weeks with private partners to investigate Albania and help it recover from the attack that destroyed government data and disrupted public services.

“We have concluded that the Iranian government carried out this reckless and irresponsible cyber attack and is responsible for subsequent hacking and leaking operations,” she added.

The United States called the attack unprecedented because it said it violated the peacetime rule of not harming critical infrastructure on which the public depends.

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(Reporting by Florion Goga, Fatos Betsy and Doina Chiako in Washington and James Pearson in London; Editing by Edmund Blair, Alex Richardson, William Maclean

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