Albania blames Iran for cyberattacks

Monday, September 12, 2022

Edi Rama at a signing ceremony in Brussels, 2021.
Image: US Department of State.

On Saturday Albania's Interior Ministry blamed Iranian actors for a cyberattack on Friday evening which targeted the national police's computer systems. Albania reported a previous attack in July.

The ministry said in a statement "[t]he national police’s computer systems were hit Friday by a cyberattack which, according to initial information, was committed by the same actors who in July attacked the country’s public and government service systems". The attack comes days after Iran was blamed for the attack in July. The statement also said the authorities had deliberately closed down their border crossing management software "[i]n order to neutralise the criminal act and secure the systems", with local media reporting queues at border crossings.

On Wednesday the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama accused Iran of directing the attack against Albanian institutions on July 15, stating it was a bid to "paralyse public services and hack data and electronic communications from the government systems". While Rama went on to say that the attack failed in its purpose, he also stated that Albania was severing diplomatic ties with Iran, giving Iranian embassy staff 24 hours to leave the country. The Associated Press called this the first known case of diplomatic ties being cut over a cyberattack.

Iran called the accusations "baseless" and deemed the cutting of diplomatic ties to be "ill-considered and short-sighted".

On Friday the US imposed sanctions against the Iranian intelligence agency in response to the July attack. NATO, of which Albania is a member, and the European Union also denounced the attack.

Iran and Albania have been foes since 2013 when Albania agreed to host members of the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran, also known as Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), at the request of the US and United Nations. MEK is an Iranian opposition group, and considered a terrorist group by Iran.