Iran denies role in Gulf cyberattacks

October 14, 2012 - 9:34 AM

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian officials denied any role in recent cyberattacks against oil and gas companies in the Persian Gulf and said they welcomed a probe of the case, a semiofficial news agency reported Sunday.

Mahdi Akhavan Bahabadi, secretary of the National Center of Cyberspace, denounced as "politically motivated" American allegations of an Iranian link to the Shamoon virus that hit Saudi Arabian state oil company Aramco and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas, according to remarks carried by ISNA.

"We interpret the issue politically and in light of U.S. domestic issues as well as the (U.S. presidential) election," he said.

The virus can spread through networked computers and ultimately wipes out files by overwriting them. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said they rendered more than 30,000 computers useless, calling them probably the most destructive cyberattacks the private sector has seen to date.

Last week a former U.S. government official said American authorities believe that Iranian hackers, likely supported by the government, were responsible for the Gulf cyberattacks. U.S. agencies have been assisting in the Gulf investigation and concluded that the level of resources needed to conduct the attack showed there was some degree of involvement by a nation state, said the former official. The American official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is classified as secret.

"American officials have said they are able to discover the source of the recent cyberattacks. We do welcome this and announce our readiness for any international cooperation to find the source of the attacks," Bahabadi said.

The Iranian official said Tehran has already offered help to boost the companies' cybersecurity, as Iran has itself recently been the victim of cyberattacks on its offshore oil platforms.

Iran periodically reports the discovery of viruses and other malicious programs in government, nuclear, oil and industrial networks. On Monday, Tehran said it had successfully blocked a cyberattack on the computer network of its offshore drilling platforms. It briefly shut down part of its oil facilities because of a cyberattack in May.

Iran blames Israel and the United States for the attacks. Israel has done little to deflect suspicion it uses viruses against Iran.