Iran has been blamed by British intelligence for June’s ham-fisted “brute force” cyber attack on Parliament that resulted in 90 Parliamentary email accounts out of more than 3,000 being compromised.
The Times newspaper, citing an unpublished ‘secret intelligence assessment’, reports that the finger of blame has been pointed at Iranian hackers for an attack that saw the attackers access the email accounts of dozens of MPs, as well as Parliamentary workers, including that belonging to prime minister by default Theresa May.
The newspaper writes that the June attack, which was initially thought to have been the work of Russian hackers, “is believed to be Iran’s first significant act of cyberwarfare on Britain and underlines its emergence as one of the world’s biggest cyberpowers”.
The Times’ sources referred to alleged Iranian perpetrators as “highly capable actors in the cyberworld”, with one source quoted as saying: “It was not the most sophisticated attack, but nor did it need to be. It is possible they were simply testing their capability.”
According to intelligence officials, the cyber attack – which was, at the time, scolded as the result of weak passwords – “bombarded” around 9,000 parliamentary email accounts, but only compromised one per cent of the accounts it affected.
Whitehall has since admitted that the hackers had obtained sensitive material, according to The Times’ report.
Officials are reportedly exploring several possible motives for the attack, including “classic cyber-espionage” to gather material on British activities, the possibility that the regime is looking for compromising material on British lawmakers, and a potential drive by Tehran to collect information that could give it a commercial advantage.
A spokesperson for the National Cyber Security Centre said: “It would be inappropriate to comment further while inquiries are ongoing.”
The timing of the report is particularly newsworthy as it comes just a day after the Prime Minister issued a joint statement with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in support of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal after US president Donald Trump threatened to withdraw from the deal.
“We stand committed to the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and its full implementation by all sides,” the three leaders said, adding that preserving the agreement “is in our shared national security interest.”