Albania expelled Iranian diplomats after cyberattack

Albania expelled Iranian diplomats after cyberattack

The Albanian government on Wednesday gave embassy staff 24 hours to leave the country due to a major hack that Tirana blames on Tehran. It is the first known case of a country cutting off diplomatic relations due to a cyber attack.

Elite Albanian government agents forced the door of the Iranian embassy in Tirana on Thursday and surrounded the area shortly after the last of the staff left the site following the government order to expel them. The officers, in full combat gear, entered the building first and were followed by other officers bringing gear and a dog.

The Albanian government on Wednesday gave embassy staff 24 hours to leave the country due to a major hack that Tirana blames on Tehran. It is the first known case of a country cutting off diplomatic relations due to a cyber attack. The last two embassy cars with about 10 passengers left the compound Thursday around noon after a lot of movement inside the building overnight.

Government sources declined to say where the Iranian embassy staff went, but local media reported that some departed from Tirana International Airport and others were likely headed to neighboring North Macedonia. The area of ​​the complex, located in the center of the capital, near important government offices, was cordoned off by the police and access was not allowed to passers-by.

A cyber attack on July 15 temporarily took down numerous Albanian government websites and digital services. Prime Minister Edi Rama said on Wednesday that there was “undeniable evidence” that the Iranian government was behind the attack.

“An in-depth investigation provided us with indisputable evidence” that the attack was “orchestrated and sponsored” by Tehran, said the head of the Albanian government.

Rama assured that “the attack failed” and that “the damage can be considered minimal compared to the aggressor’s goals.”

“All systems were back to full operation and there was no irreversible data loss,” he said.

The United States supported the move by NATO member Albania, vowing unspecified retaliation against Iran for “a troubling precedent for cyberspace.”

“The United States strongly condemns the cyberattack against Albania, our NATO ally,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson. NATO also expressed its full support for Albania and in a statement “strongly condemned such malicious cyber activities designed to destabilize and damage the security of an ally, and disrupt the daily lives of citizens.”

In a statement, Iran’s Foreign Ministry denied that Tehran was behind any cyberattack. Ties between the two countries have been strained since 2014, when Albania welcomed some 3,000 members of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), who left Iraq.

In July, MEK planned to hold the Free Iran World Summit in Albania, with US lawmakers among the guests. The meeting was canceled “for security reasons and due to terrorist threats and conspiracies.”

Also in 2020 and 2018, Tirana expelled four Iranian diplomats for “threatening national security.”

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.