Massive Blackout Brings Turkey To A Standstill: Iran Cyber Attack?

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses lawmakers at the parliament in Ankar
AP/Burhan Ozbilici

Turkey is in the process of recovering from a major blackout that has brought the country to a relative standstill. Almost the entire country has been affected by the massive power cut, according to some media reports out of Turkey. Officials are considering the possibility that they were hit by a major cyber attack directed at its critical infrastructure.

The Turkish government is currently presenting the blackout as a technical issue, but some suspect that a state sponsor may have authorized a massive cyber attack against Ankara’s electric grid and other aspects of its critical infrastructure.

Turkish officials told Hurriyet news that the issue stems from a technical problem with the computer system of the Turkish Electricity Conduction Company, which is responsible for controlling the power lines.

“Every possibility including a terrorist attack is being investigated,” Prime MInister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters on Tuesday.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz added that officials were investigating whether the power outage was a result of a cyber attack. “I also cannot say whether or not there was a cyber-attack. The most important this for us is to bring the system back to life. This is not something we frequently experience,” said the energy minister.

If officials do determine that Turkey was hit by a major cyber attack, Iran will likely be seen as a prime suspect.

The blackout comes as tensions have increasingly risen between Iran and Turkey over the past few weeks. Although determining attribution from a cyber attack takes time, some news outlets are reporting that authorities are highly suspicious that Iran has backed the attack.

“Iran is trying to chase [the Islamic State] from the region only to take its place,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently said in condemning the Shiite regime. The Turkish president also ripped into Iran for aiding “terrorist groups” in taking over Yemen. The remarks reportedly infuriated Iranian government officials, who on Monday demanded an apology from Turkey. Some even proposed that they cancel his upcoming visit to Tehran on April 7.

The two countries have also had a major falling out in diplomatic relations due to the Syrian civil war. While Iran is a staunch supporter of the Assad regime, Turkey fiercely opposes Assad’s grip on Syria. The countries also find themselves at opposite ends over the current conflict in Yemen.

Iran has dedicated major resources towards expanding its cyberwarfare capabilities over the past few years.

Some have speculated that Iran has become a tier-1 cyber threat, on par with the likes of China and Russia. “Iran was once considered a D-grade cyber threat. Now it’s almost on the same level as Russia or China,” a cybersecurity expert told Business Insider last week.

Iran has also shown that it has the capacity to breach the United States’ critical infrastructure network, according to a December report by a cybersecurity firm. The report recognized that Iran had infiltrated the U.S. water, gas, and transit systems, while also successfully breaching airport security networks.

In February, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei said in an address to his military cyber units, “You are the cyber-war agents… get yourselves ready for such war wholeheartedly.”


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