A hacking group with ties to Iran and a track record of targeting Albanian governmental organizations and companies claimed responsibility on Thursday for an assault on the Institute of Statistics, which handles census data and other official statistics for the country.
Following the “sophisticated” cyber event that disrupted INSTAT’s website and email service, the agency has declared a delay in publishing official statistics until further notice.
According to INSTAT, the recent census data was not compromised by hackers as it is securely stored in dedicated systems designed specifically for this purpose.
According to the hackers, they managed to breach Albania’s geographic information system and population data, accessing a whopping 100 terabytes of information.
According to a statement from their Telegram channel and a video displaying leaked documents, the group Homeland Justice has obtained and taken data from the servers. However, they have not released the data, preventing any verification of their assertions.
Following the event on January 31, INSTAT stated that it promptly deactivated its internet connection and informed the appropriate state authorities.
The United States has recently imposed sanctions on Iranian military hackers for their involvement in attacks on water facilities.
The cyber agency of Albania (AKCESK) enlisted a team of experts and partnered with the state police to aid INSTAT in recovering compromised systems and investigating the methods utilized by the responsible party.
Per the agency’s statement, their information infrastructure is not considered critical and therefore does not fall under AKCESK’s jurisdiction. The agency further clarified that this infrastructure is both hosted and managed on their own premises.
Neither INSTAT nor Albanian cyber authorities acknowledged the role of Homeland Justice in the attack.
According to cybersecurity experts, it has been determined that Iranian hackers are behind the recent targeting of the Albanian parliament, as well as two local telecom companies and the country’s main airline. Further investigation into these incidents revealed the presence of a wiper malware called No-Justice, which is believed to be connected to Iran, within the systems of those affected.
Last July, Homeland Justice initiated their inaugural campaign against Albania by focusing on the country’s e-government systems. In September, reports emerged that government-backed hackers from Iran had attacked the national police’s computer systems, specifically those used to monitor border movements. This prompted authorities to take precautionary measures by temporarily shutting down computer controls at border crossings and airports.
An official from the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refuted allegations that the country played a role in an attack aimed at Albania, dismissing the claims as “unsubstantiated” and “unverified.”