Albania is ending its diplomatic relations with Iran and has ordered Iranian diplomats and embassy staff to leave within 24 hours, after an investigation into a cyberattack in July, Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Wednesday.
“The government has decided with immediate effect to end diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Rama said in a video statement sent to the media.
“This extreme response … is fully proportionate to the gravity and risk of the cyberattack that threatened to paralyze public services, erase digital systems and hack into state records, steal government intranet electronic communication and stir chaos and insecurity in the country,” Rama said.
Rama addresses the situation on Twitter
According to Rama, Iran attacked Albanian government sites as a way to “destroy it, paralyze public services and hack data and electronic communications from the government systems.”
Last month, cybersecurity firm Mandiant estimated that the July attack was conducted by Iran, though Russia was a likely suspect, as noted by a number of US media outlets. The US strongly condemned the cyberattack.
Thorough investigations have been conducted to make sure that there were no irreversible damages were done and to identify the hackers, Rama added. All of the systems are back up and running.
The attack, which occurred on July 15, was not “an individual operation or concerted action by criminal groups, but a State-sponsored attack,” Rama said, adding that this information matched intelligence from Albanian cybersecurity firms.
“The in-depth investigation provided us with indisputable evidence that the cyberattack against our country was orchestrated and sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Rama said. “It was through the engagements of four groups that enacted the aggression – one of them being a notorious international cyber-terrorism group, which has been a perpetrator or co-perpetrator of earlier cyberattacks targeting Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Kuwait and Cyprus.”