By Arash Karami, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
Numerous Iranian media outlets reported May 25 that the website The Statistical Center of Iran (pictured) was hacked and temporarily put out of use. News agencies wrote that the hackers were “outside of Iran” but little else was known about them. Some websites speculated that either the Islamic State (IS) or Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia conducted the attack.
The low-level attack, which was followed by two attacks on Saudi Arabian statistical websites May 26, raised the question in Iranian media whether Saudi-Iranian cyber wars have begun.
In an articled headlined “The announcement of a cyberwar by Saudi Arabia against Iran?” Tabnak News agency wrote, “While many websites assumed this website was hacked by [IS] … it appears it is a Saudi hacker group.” Tabnak rejected the idea of IS involvement because the hackers referred to themselves as “Da۳s,” as in “Daesh,” an acronym the terrorist group does not use for itself.
A Twitter account associated with Da۳s hackers followed a few well-known Saudi accounts, and Tabnak concluded that a Saudi group had conducted the attack with government backing. In any case, the screenshots provided of the hacked website appear to show that the hackers either wanted Iran to know that they were Saudi or that they intended to make it appear that they were.
An article in the Iran newspaper run by the Hassan Rouhani administration, perhaps in an attempt to downplay the speculation and tensions, reported that a source in the Statistical Center of Iran denied that its website was hacked at all. The official called the problems with the site “a natural issue with no relation to [IS] or other individuals.” The official added, “We should not open this small issue so wide that it creates rumors in the country.” The official also urged Iranians to not fan the flames of rumors.