Great Britain

Iran is plotting cyber attacks to ‘sink cargo ships and blow up petrol stations’, secret files reveal

IRAN is plotting cyber attacks to sink cargo ships and blow up petrol stations, secret files reportedly reveal.

The chilling plans are being developed by a shadowy cyber warfare unit within the elite Revolutionary Guard (IRCG) and the UK's defence chiefs say they should be taken seriously.

Iran has often been on the end of high profile cyber attacks widely thought to have carried out by Israel but it has also carried out one ones of its own.

In 2019, Iranian hackers were claimed to have been behind a major cyber attack on key UK organisations which saw thousands have their mobile phone numbers stolen.

The clandestine unit has produced five reports on potential targets, Sky News reports.

One of them looks at the complex systems on large cargo ships that control key functions, like filtration and ballast water, remotely.

A diagram shows how commands could be sent remotely to a ship from a control centre on land using a satellite link.

The report says pumps “are used to bring water into the tanks through centrifuges and in order to operate correctly, the task must be completed with precision”.

The Iranian cyber spies say any “kind of disruptive influence can cause disorder within these systems and can cause significant and irreparable damage to the vessel",

Unless we do something about it, our critical national infrastructure, our way of life could be threatened quite easily

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

These could “also result in the sinking of the ship” they predict.

The Iranians are also looking at attacking petrol stations, in particular equipment produced by US- company Franklin Fuelling Systems.

The would-be hackers believe there is a vulnerability which means the temperature of fuel can be changed or its supply cut off.

According to the Iranian's an “explosion of these fueling pumps is possible if these systems are hacked and controlled remotely".

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the Iranian plans demonstrate how vulnerable the UK and its allies are to cyber attacks.

'STATEMENT OF INTENT'

"Unless we do something about it, our critical national infrastructure, our way of life could be threatened quite easily," he said.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, the top military officer overseeing UK cyber operations, said of the Iranians: "They are among the most advanced cyber actors.

“We take their capabilities seriously. We don’t overstate it. They are a serious actor and they have behaved really irresponsibly in the past."

The source who revealed the clandestine documents told Sky they were "very confident" about their authenticity while another said they looked credible.

The reports are compiled by unit called Intelligence Team 13 and are all marked "very confidential".

The organisation is part of the IRGC Shahid Kaveh unit, under an individual he named as Hamid Reza Lashgarian, the source said.

"They are supposed to be rather clandestine. They work on offensive cyber operations globally," they explained.

Near the top of most of the files is a quote from Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran must become among the world's most powerful in the area of cyber."

The security source describes the quote as like a "commander's statement of intent".

A spokesman for Franklin Fueling Systems said the company takes "seriously the need to provide highly reliable and secure equipment to our customers".

"There are a number of redundant safety systems involved in a typical fueling station, and we do not believe that an explosion could be caused through control of the automatic tank gauge or fuel management system," he said.

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