Iranian petrol stations targeted in controlled cyberattack

Iran oil
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Iran’s fuel supply has been targeted in a cyberattack that affected around 70% of the country's petrol stations.

The Iranian government has accused a cyber group known as ‘Predatory Sparrow’ of being behind the attack, and alleges that the group has ties to Israel.

Israeli media also reported that the group was behind the attack, but a government spokesperson, Tal Heinrich, commented at a press briefing that, “We have nothing to say about Iran’s claims.”

 Attack carried out in a “controlled manner”

The group claiming to be behind the attack released a comment via Telegram stating that, “the cyberattack was carried out in a controlled manner to avoid potential damage to emergency services.”

The Iranian Oil Minister, Javad Owji, said that of the 3,800 petrol stations the ministry is responsible for, only 1,650 were operational. Many of Iran’s petrol stations were able to continue supplying fuel to customers manually, as the attack specifically targeted software associated with the pumps. 

Predatory Sparrow also commented on the attack via Twitter, noting as with some of its previous "operations", this cyberattack, "was conducted in a controlled manner while taking measures to limit potential damage to emergency services,” adding that it had “delivered warnings to emergency services across the country before the operation began.”

Speaking to TechRadar Pro, Semperis’ Director of Security Research Yossi Rachman said, “From what I have observed and reviewed thus far from the Predatory Sparrow groups various communications channels, they compromised at least one server through-which they took control of Iran's gas stations central management system, by compromising the technical support or other administrative privileged accounts within the system and have been able to obtain sensitive gas station data & payment details.”

Critical infrastructure has become an increasingly important strategic target for state-sponsored cyber groups, with the US suffering a number of attacks allegedly orchestrated by groups backed by China and Iran, and China itself alleging that foreign software is deliberately gathering sensitive geographic information about it’s transport infrastructure and military.

Via Reuters.

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Benedict Collins
Staff Writer (Security)

Benedict Collins is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Pro covering privacy and security. Before settling into journalism he worked as a Livestream Production Manager, covering games in the National Ice Hockey League for 5 years and contributing heavily to the advancement of livestreaming within the league. Benedict is mainly focused on security issues such as phishing, malware, and cyber criminal activity, but he also likes to draw on his knowledge of geopolitics and international relations to understand the motives and consequences of state-sponsored cyber attacks.

He has a MA in Security, Intelligence and Diplomacy, alongside a BA in Politics with Journalism, both from the University of Buckingham. His masters dissertation, titled 'Arms sales as a foreign policy tool,' argues that the export of weapon systems has been an integral part of the diplomatic toolkit used by the US, Russia and China since 1945. Benedict has also written about NATO's role in the era of hybrid warfare, the influence of interest groups on US foreign policy, and how reputational insecurity can contribute to the misuse of intelligence.

Outside of work Ben follows many sports; most notably ice hockey and rugby. When not running or climbing, Ben can most often be found deep in the shrubbery of a pub garden.