The Iranian government has discovered what it describes as a ‘hidden agenda’ behind a recent malware attack on the country’s Oil Ministry, according to a report published by the FARS News Agency.
The statement, from Deputy Oil Minister Hamdollah Mohammadnejad, confirmed earlier reports that the attack was the work of a virus, but added that it was aimed at “stealing and destorying data and information. He said that the government now understood the “nature of the attack and the identity of the attackers.” Mohammadnejad declined to give more details, however, citing an ongoing investigation, Fars reported on Saturday.
The attack, which was first reported on April 23, led to the temporary shutdown of some Iranian oil facilities, including the Kharg Island oil terminal – a massive complex that processes 90% of Iran’s oil exports. He also hinted at a targeted attack, rather than a chance infection or an effort to cause mayhem.
“Those who design and develop such viruses are pursuing specific goals,” Mohammadnejad told Fars.
Senior Iranian oil ministry officials announced earlier this week said their computer systems resumed normal operation on Wednesday.
Initially, the Oil Ministry claimed that the attack had not harmed any “essential data” because sensitive and public systems used by the Ministry were separated.
Iran and its nuclear program have been at the center of talks about the potential danger of cyber warfare and nation-state sponsored cyber attacks. The country’s uranium enrichment facilities are believed to be the original target of the Stuxnet worm, which was first identified in 2010 and is believed to have been the work of the U.S. and, possibly, Israel.
More recently, the conversation has shifted to the potential vulnerability of U.S. critical infrastructure to cyber attacks launched by enemy states or cyber criminal groups. In Washington, a congressional joint Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies held a hearing on the Iranian Cyber Threat to the U.S. Homeland last week, with representatives of both major parties warned that Iran could pursue cyber attacks against the U.S. should tensions flare over its nuclear program.