Hacking Relations

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Albania accused Iran of a second cyberattack over the weekend, just days after the small Balkan country cut off diplomatic relations with Tehran over a July hack that destroyed government data and shut down services, CNN reported.

The recent hack led Albanian officials to take its Total Information Management System (TIMS), which tracks individuals entering and exiting the country, offline for a while.

In July, a hacker group calling itself “HomeLand Justice” posted a video on a website and a Telegram channel taking credit for a ransomware attack that shut down a number of government services and websites, the Washington Post reported Thursday.

On Wednesday, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said an investigation showed that Iran was responsible for the attacks, and ordered its diplomatic mission to leave Albania within 24 hours.

The US, Albania’s closest ally, also blamed Tehran for the cyberattack and imposed a series of sanctions on Iran’s spy agency Friday.

Iran rejected the accusations as “baseless claims” and condemned Albania’s move as ill-considered and short-sighted.

HomeLand Justice’s video was accompanied by images of alleged Albanian residency permits for purported members of the Iranian dissident group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq members (MEK) – thousands of whom have been in exile in Albania since 2014.

The first cyberattack occurred before MEK – which Iran has labeled as a terrorist group – was scheduled to hold a conference in July. The summit was then canceled over concerns of terrorist threats.

Meanwhile, cybersecurity analysts noted this marks the first time a country has severed diplomatic relations with another over cyberattacks.

They noted that other instances of cyberattacks have strained relations between nations, but described Albania’s decision as “the strongest public response to a cyberattack we have ever seen.”

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