Following a major cyber-attack on Albanian government servers in July, new attacks have targeted the country’s border operations via the Traveller Information Management System (TIMS).
These latest attacks over the weekend caused long queues at border checkpoints, where the registration of citizens and vehicles entering and leaving the country had to be performed manually.
Prime Minister Edi Rama said the latest wave of cyber-attacks were made by the “same aggressors” as the July attacks, pointing the finger again at Iran.
“Another cyber-attack by the same aggressors, already exposed and condemned even by Albania’s friendly and allied countries, was recorded last night on the TIMS system!” Rama wrote on Twitter, “Meanwhile, we continue to work around the clock with our allies to make our digital systems impenetrable.”
Albania’s TIMS was first implemented in 20078 with the help of the US. According to the Albanian Ministry of the Interior, the attacks over the weekend targeted the data storage and transmission systems.
Hacking group Homeland Justice, which claimed responsibility for the July attacks, posted a video to its Telegram channel and website showing what appears to be a video feed from Albania’s border operations and TIMS system.
Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani condemned new US sanctions and Albania’s decision to cut diplomatic ties over the incident.
“America’s immediate support for the false accusation of the Albanian government … shows that the designer of this scenario is not the latter, but the American government,” Kanaani said, “This criminal organization continues to play a role as one of America’s tools in perpetrating terrorist acts, cyberattacks.”
He added that the US is “giving full support to a terrorist sect,” referring to Iranian opposition group the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), considered terrorists by the Iranian government.
The July attacks on Albania occurred days before the Free Iran World Summit, an annual conference held by MEK, in a coastal city 30 minutes west of the Albanian capital of Tirana. The event was ultimately cancelled after threats of violence.
Homeland Justice took credit for the attack, acting as Albanians opposed to the Albanian government’s hosting of MEK refugees.
A recent Microsoft report found that the attacks began in May 2021, and that government databases were subject to attacks by four groups linked to the Iranian government.
“Microsoft was able to prove with a high degree of certainty that a variety of Iranian groups were involved in this attack, with different actors responsible for different phases,” the report said.
Relations between Albania and Iran have been tense since 2013, when Albania agreed to shelter members of MEK with the support of the US.
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko