Iran has come under a major cyberattack within the same week Christine Lagarde, the head of the European Central Bank, warned of the implications of such cyber-attacks.
The Cyberattack Knocked out 25% of Iran's Internet Connectivity
The NetBlocks internet observatory, which keeps track of real-time information about internet freedom, confirmed that there was a major disruption in the Iranian telecommunications systems on February 8th. The internet observatory uses different classification and measurement techniques to detect any disruptions or attacks on infrastructure in real-time. They issued a tweet saying that Iran lost 25% connectivity due to Iranian authorities activating their “Digital Fortress” cyber-defense mechanism – dubbed DZHAFA.
NetBlocks say that the DEZHFA activation was implemented to “repel a cyber-attack on the country’s infrastructure.” With mobile networks and fixed-line networks impacted, it took seven hours before full internet connectivity was restored to the country. A spokesperson for the Iranian Telecommunication Infrastructure Company, affiliated with the ministry of ICT and the sole provider of telecommunications infrastructure, Sadjad Bonabi, tweeted that there had been a “Distributed Denial of Service attack” (DDoS) that had since been “normalized” with the “intervention of the DZHAFA Shield.”
Was the Cyber Attack Linked to a Foreign State?
Bonabi said that there was “no sign of state sponsorship” of the detected attack and that the sources and destinations for the attacks were “highly distributed.” It’s not that unusual for DDoS attacks to be used against nation-states like this. Foreign governments had also used them as a weapon, such as when China reportedly fired the “Great Cannon of China” at an online forum that was connected to Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.
This is only the latest in a long list of alleged cyber-attacks against Iranian infrastructure, no matter who was behind it. Kate O’Flaherty reported back in 2019 that the DZHAFA shield was activated to defend against cyberattacks on government services and infrastructure. Earlier in 2019, it was reported that the US launched an offensive cyber operation on Iran to disable the computer systems used to control rocket and missile launches following the downing of a US drone.