The hack comes on the heals of nationwide unrest following the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody
Iran’s atomic energy agency alleged on Sunday that hackers acting on behalf of an unidentified foreign country broke into a subsidiary’s network and had free access to its email system.
An anonymous hacking group claimed responsibility for the attack on Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, demanding Tehran release political prisoners arrested in the recent nationwide protests. The group said it leaked 50 gigabytes of internal emails, contracts and construction plans related to Iran’s Russian-backed nuclear power plant in Bushehr and shared the files on its Telegram channel. It was unclear whether the breached system contained classified material.
The hack comes as Iran continues to face nationwide unrest first sparked by the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman in police custody for allegedly not adhering to the country’s strict Islamic dress code. On Sunday, Iran’s leading teachers’ association reported that sit-ins canceled classes at multiple schools across the country in protest over the government’s crackdown on student protesters.
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The protests first focused on Iran’s state-mandated hijab, or headscarf, for women but transformed into one of the most serious challenges to the country’s ruling clerics. Protesters have clashed with police and even called for the downfall of the Islamic Republic itself. Security forces have fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrations, killing over 200 people, according to estimates by rights groups.
Iran’s civil nuclear arm said hackers breached the email system used by a company operating the country’s sole nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr. The agency blamed a “foreign country” for the attack, without elaborating. Iran has previously accused the United States and Israel for cyberattacks that have impaired the country’s infrastructure.
“These illegal efforts out of desperation are aimed at attracting public attention,” the organization said.
The Bushehr plant, which went online in 2011 with assistance from Russia, had files of contracts, construction plans, and information about equipment that appeared to have been published on Telegram by an anonymous hacking group going by the name of “Black Reward.”
We don’t “flirt with criminal mullahs,” the group wrote, “unlike Westerners.”
The Coordination Council for Teachers Union, the largest teachers’ organization in Iran and a vocal participant in the protests, reported that schools, primarily in Iran’s Kurdish provinces, heeded its call to skip classes on Sunday in protest of the deaths and detentions of students during the previous month of unrest. The strikes were not immediately acknowledged by the authorities.
The union published images of teachers protesting in front of schools in West Azerbaijan, the mountainous Hamadan province, and the Kurdish cities of Sanandaj, Marivan, Kermanshah, and Saqez instead of teaching while holding up signs reading “Woman, Life, Freedom.”
“Schools have become barracks and tear gas is thrown in the faces of elementary school students,” one teacher wrote in a letter shared by the union. “History will record the names of this brave generation.”
Campuses have long been a flash point for unrest in Iran, including during the 1953 student protests under the Western-backed shah and during the 1999 pro-democracy demonstrations under former reformist President Mohammad Khatami.
At the prestigious Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, the scene of an hours-long siege by security forces earlier this month that ended with dozens of students arrested, protests erupted as students tore down the barrier dividing men from women in the campus cafeteria, a students’ association said.
“Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” the massive crowd of students shouted at the top of their lungs, footage showed, pumping their fists in the air.
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