March 15, 2022
Iranian media reported a cyber-attack Monday on the portal of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance (Ershad) and its affiliated websites.
Hackers posted on the website photos of leaders of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), Maryam and Masoud Rajavi, as well as a photo of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with a large red X, drawn on his face.
The MEK website claimed “rebel groups” that support it had defaced 62 portals, 77 servers, 280 computers of the ministry and wiped out 30 terabits of dataincluding backup files of all servers of the ministry in Tehran and in several provinces. The report said the ministry sent all employees home until further notice due to the systems damage.
While Masoud Rajavi is widely thought dead, the MEK insists he is merely in hiding waiting his return to Iran. The MEK allied to Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 Iran war and helped the Iraqi dictator put down the 1991 risings in Iraq, when tens of thousands died.
In 2003, MEK, according to the United States army’s official account, fought with Iraqi troops against the US-led invasion, but despite Iraqi calls for the group to be held accountable over human-rights violations the US relocated the MEK in 2013 from bases in Iraq to Albania, where they run a well-financed media and social media operation.
In January, a MEK spokesman said a ten-second hacking of several television and radio channels of Iranian state broadcasting might have been done by supporters in Iran. The hackers put up pictures of the Rajavis, and one of Khamenei in a gun sight. The Iranian leader was badly wounded in 1981 in one of many bombings attributed to the MEK.
On February 1, the web-based streaming platform of IRIB, Telewebion, was hijacked in the middle of a live broadcast of the Iran-United Arab Emirates soccer match, broadcasting calls to rebellion as “the regime’s foundations are rattling.”
In August 2021, a mystery hacktivist group calling itself Tapandegan (Palpitations), previously known for the 2018 hacking electronic flight arrival and departure boards in Mashhad and Tabriz, released security camera footage from Tehran’s Evin prison. Tapandegan said the images came from hackers called Edalat-e Ali (Ali’s Justice) and were being circulated to draw attention to prisoner abuse.
In October 2021, gas stations in Iran were hit by an attack disrupting payments, leading to long queues for two days that prevented customers using the government-issued electronic cards for subsidized fuel. ‘Predatory Sparrow’ claimed responsibility, but Iranian officials blamed outside forces, widely taken to refer to Israel.
The MEK was listed by the US from 1997 to 2012 as a ‘foreign terrorist organization,’ but was subsequently removed from the list. The group has cultivated links with many politicians in the US and Europe, paying large sums for attendance or speeches at MEK rallies.