Iran reported a spree of new cyberattacks Tuesday, saying foreign enemy hackers 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 center.
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 malware have also been used in attacks on Iran's oil industry and Science Ministry under a covert U.S. effort, first disclosed in 2009, that was meant to subvert Iran's nuclear program.
The latest Iranian sabotage reports raised the possibility that the attacks had been carried out in retaliation for assaults that crippled computers in the Saudi Arabian oil industry and some U.S. financial institutions a few months ago. U.S. intelligence officials have said they believe that Iranian specialists in cybersabotage were responsible.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cited those attacks in an Oct. 11 speech in which he warned of the United States' vulnerability to a coordinated computer warfare attack, calling such a possibility a "cyber-Pearl Harbor."
The Iranian Students' News Agency said the country's Passive Defense Organization, the military unit responsible for guarding against cyberattacks, 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 cyberattack had also been made against the information center of the Culture Ministry's Headquarters for Supporting and Protecting Works of Art and Culture, originating in Dallas and routed through Malaysia and Vietnam.
Western economic sanctions on Iran have been tightening while diplomatic negotiations aimed at resolving the nuclear dispute have remained basically stalled since June.