Iran target of apparent cyberattack amid protests

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (TNZT) — Iran’s central bank’s website was briefly taken down on Wednesday after hackers claimed they had targeted the websites of several Iranian state agencies.

The apparent cyber attack came amid days of protests over the death of a woman detained by the country’s vice squad for allegedly wearing her Muslim headscarf too loosely. It also came hours before Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was due to address the United Nations General Assembly.

Central Bank spokesman Mostafa Qamarivafa denied that the bank itself was hacked, saying only that the website was “inaccessible” due to an attack on a server hosting the website, in comments from the official IRNA news agency. The website was later restored.

The website of the Ministry of Culture was also unavailable on Wednesday afternoon.

Hackers with ties to the shadowy Anonymous movement said they targeted other Iranian government agencies, including state television and the presidential spokesman’s office.

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Iran has been the target of several cyber attacks in recent years.

In February, dissident hackers posted an anti-government notice on a website that streams state television programs. Last year, an online group released video footage from the infamous Evin Prison in Iran that they claimed to have obtained through hacking.

Later that year, a cyberattack paralyzed gas stations across the country, creating long lines of angry motorists who couldn’t get subsidized fuel for days. Reports of the attack appeared to refer to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Other attacks, which Iran has blamed on Israel, have targeted its nuclear program and industrial sites.

Iranians have been protesting for days against the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was arrested by vice squad last week. Police say she died of a heart attack and was not assaulted, but her family has questioned that, saying she had no previous heart problems and they were unable to see her body.

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The UN human rights agency says the morality police has stepped up operations in recent months, resorting to more violent methods, including beating women, batting with batons and pushing them into police vehicles.

Amini’s funeral on Saturday sparked protests in the western Kurdish region where she came from, which eventually spread across the country and reached the capital, Tehran. The protesters clashed with police and chanted against the Islamic Republic itself.

Raisi, who will speak at the UN General Assembly later on Wednesday, has called for an investigation into Amini’s death. Iranian officials have blamed the protests on unnamed foreign countries they say are trying to stir up unrest.

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Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made no mention of the protests during a Wednesday meeting with veterans of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Iran has seen waves of protests in recent years, mainly because of a protracted economic crisis exacerbated by Western sanctions over its nuclear program.

The Biden administration and European allies have been working to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, which curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in return for sanctions relief, but talks have stalled for months.

Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. It began ramping up its nuclear activities after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 agreement, and experts say it now likely has enough highly enriched uranium to make a bomb if it so chooses.

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