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BBC: Cyber Attack Followed Iran Crackdown on Journalists

The British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) says the company was hit by a recent cyber-attack that followed a campaign of intimidation by Iranian authorities.

The British Broadcast Corporation (BBC) says the company was hit by a recent cyber-attack that followed a campaign of intimidation by Iranian authorities.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson said in a speech Wednesday before the Royal Television Society that there had also been an attempt to jam two different satellite feeds of BBC Persian Television into Iran and to disrupt the company’s phone lines in London using multiple automated calls. Thompson – who last month accused Iran of arresting and threatening the families of journalists working with BBC Persian Television to force them to quit – did not accuse Iran directly, though he described the incidents as “self-evidently suspicious.”

“I don’t want to go into any more detail about these incidents except to say that we are taking every step we can, as we always do, to ensure that this vital service continues to reach the people who need it,” he said.

The media company did not say precisely when the cyber-attack occurred, but reports have said the company suffered a distributed denial-of-service attack on March 1.

“It is difficult, and may prove impossible, to confirm the source of these attacks, though attempted jamming of BBC services into Iran is nothing new and we regard the coincidence of these different attacks as self-evidently suspicious,” he added.

Sophos Senior Technology Consultant Graham Clulely blogged that Thompson was right to be cautious when it comes to naming the culprit of the attack.

“Even if a computer involved in the attacks was found to be located in an Iranian military base that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was an attack done with the knowledge of Iran’s authorities,” he wrote. “It could have been compromised by hackers in other countries. After all, think of all the spam you receive every day – that’s not sent by computers belonging to the spammers. Instead they’re from PCs that cybercriminals have commandeered and turned into a botnet for their own purposes. At the same time, of course, we shouldn’t be naive.”

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Just this week, Iran was named as one of the “Enemies of the Internet” in a report by Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit organization that advocates freedom of the press. In the report, the organization cited Iran’s policy of blocking secure HTTPS connections and its decision to impose a death sentence on Saeed Malekpour for running websites the government called pornographic.

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