UNITED STATES: The US imposed sanctions on Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and its minister on Friday, accusing them of being involved in a disruptive cyberattack on Albania in July and engaging in other cyber activities against the US and its allies.
Albania severed diplomatic relations with Iran on Wednesday in response to the incident, ordering Iranian diplomats and embassy staff to leave within 24 hours.
Several networks of cyber threat actors, including those engaged in cyber espionage and ransomware attacks in support of the Iranian government, are under the control of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence, according to a statement from the U.S. Treasury Department.
“We will not tolerate Iran’s increasingly aggressive cyber activities,” Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in the statement.
The ministry was already listed as a target of American sanctions.
According to U.S. officials, Iran has ignored “norms of responsible peacetime state behaviour in cyberspace,” Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, added in a statement.
Iran rejected the sanctions as being politically motivated and ineffective.
“Like previous illegal U.S. sanctions against the Ministry of Intelligence, this new label will never be able to create the slightest hinder in the determination of the Iranian people’s security servicemen in this proud institution,” Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said.
Kanaani was quoted by Iranian state media as saying, “The announcement of immediate U.S. support for the Albanian government’s false accusation against Iran…clearly shows that the U.S. government has designed this scenario against Iran.”
In a blog post published on Thursday, Microsoft, whose cybersecurity research team assisted in the investigation into the incident, stated that the Iranian cyber operation combined digital espionage methods with data wiping malware and online information operations.
Researchers found that it appeared that the hackers wanted to make Albanian government officials look bad.
Government websites and other public services were momentarily disrupted by the July attacks.
According to analysts, Albania was to be punished for its support of the Mujahedin-e Khalq, an Iranian dissident group based there.