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Iran blames US and Israel for spree of cyber attacks

Iran has reported a spree of new cyber attacks, saying foreign enemy hackers have tried in recent months to disrupt computer systems at a power plant and other industries in a strategically important southern coastal province, as well as a Culture Ministry information centre.

Accounts of the attacks in the official media did not specify who was responsible, when they were carried out or how they were thwarted.

But they strongly suggested that the attacks had originated in the United States and Israel, which have been engaged in a shadowy struggle of computer sabotage with Iran in a broader dispute over whether Iran's nuclear energy program is for peaceful or military use.

Iran has been on heightened alert against such sabotage since a computer worm known as  Stuxnet  was used to attack its uranium enrichment centrifuges more than two years ago.

Stuxnet and other forms of computer malware have also been used in attacks on Iran's oil industry and Science Ministry under a covert US effort code-named Operation Olympic Games, first revealed in January 2009, that was meant to subvert Iran's nuclear program.

The latest Iranian sabotage reports raised the possibility the attacks had been carried out in retaliation for assaults that crippled computers in the Saudi Arabian oil industry and some US financial institutions a few months ago.


US intelligence officials have said they believe that Iranian specialists in cyber sabotage were responsible for those assaults.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta cited the attacks in an October 11 speech in which he warned of US vulnerability to a co-ordinated computer warfare attack, calling such a possibility a ''cyber Pearl Harbour''.

The Iranian Students' News Agency said the country's Passive Defence Organisation, the military unit responsible for guarding against cyber attacks, had battled a computer virus infection of an electric utility and other unspecified manufacturing industries in southern Hormozgan province.

Iran's Fars News Agency said a cyber attack had also been made against the information centre of the Culture Ministry's Headquarters for Supporting and Protecting Works of Art and Culture, and that the attack had been ''repelled by the headquarters' experts''.

The Fars account said the attack had originated in Dallas, Texas, and was routed through Malaysia and Vietnam.

News of the latest cyber attacks came as Western economic sanctions on Iran have been tightening while diplomatic negotiations aimed at resolving the nuclear dispute have remained basically stalled since June.

There are expectations that a resumption of the negotiations will be announced soon, possibly next month.

New York Times