Citing unnamed US military officials, The New York Times reported Saturday that Israel was responsible for a recent cyberattack against civilian infrastructure in Iran that targeted gas stations.
The report said Israel was behind an October 26th hack of Iran’s fuel distribution system that caused gas pumps to stop working across the country. Gas pumps displayed a digital message telling customers to blame the problem on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran provides a certain amount of subsidized fuel to each citizen for a discounted price, and the report said it took the Oil Ministry two weeks to get the system back up and running. The idea was to get Iranians angry at the government and to create unrest, but it never materialized.
It’s unclear if the cyberattack was as disruptive as the Times report said, as Israel is known for using leaks to the media to exaggerate the power it has inside Iran. The report also cited unnamed Israeli officials who claimed Iranians hacked an Israeli dating site and a medical facility in response. The officials said the hackers posted the personal details of millions of Israelis to social media.
Israel is often suspected of carrying out cyberattacks against Iran on top of its frequent attacks against Iran’s civilian nuclear program. But the US usually keeps quiet on these operations. The acknowledgment by US officials came just before the US and Iran resumed negotiations to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, and could have been an attempt to increase the pressure ahead of the talks.
When the Biden administration started its first round of talks with Iran back in April, Israel carried out a covert attack against Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. By not condemning the attack, the US gave it a tacit endorsement. Quietly backing Israel’s operations against Iran appears to be a negotiations tactic for the Biden administration.