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Iran’s state media machine suffers another hack amid protests

Iran’s Fars state news agency has been hit with a cyberattack which was first claimed by the hacktivist group Black Reward. Tehran, trying to deal with huge anti-government protests, blames Israel.

Black Reward hackers targeted Fars agency as one of the main sources of information and propaganda disseminated by the state of Iran during mass protests and attacked its database. Activists claim to have deleted nearly 250 terabytes of data.

In a message posted on the Fars website, hackers also said they had obtained confidential bulletins and directives sent by the agency and managed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Black Reward also said it had intercepted recorded calls, internal data related to administrative conversations and news folders, image archives, and financial documents.

Some of the hacked materials are leaking online and going viral. For instance, there’s a video showing a Fars journalist who is apparently masturbating in the office – Iranian users of social media are now mocking him mercilessly.

“Spreading lies, spreading rumors, creating cases against the people of Iran, working and writing, has a heavy penalty; especially when the “truth becomes clear”, the curtains fall and the lowly nature of these wage earners is revealed to everyone,” the message, posted late Friday on the hacked Fars website, said.

Message by Black Reward on the Fars agency website.

The agency soon admitted its website had been compromised by a “complex hacking and cyberattack operation.”

It appeared to blame Israel as the statement also said that cyberattacks against the agency are carried out constantly and from different countries, “including the occupied territories” – Iran’s government doesn’t recognize Israel as a state.

Black Reward is one of the most active groups involved in mass protests in Iran. On October 21, it hacked Iran's atomic energy agency and gave the Iranian government 24 hours to release political prisoners arrested during the demonstrations.

When the authorities failed to follow through with their demands, Black Reward released a trove of hacked data, including files of contracts, construction plans, and details about equipment at Iran's Russian-backed nuclear power plant in Bushehr.

Experts even started publicly worrying about data leaks threatening nuclear facilities that are considered to be critical infrastructure in most countries hosting them.Irani

Iranians protest in London. Image by Shutterstock.

In recent weeks, the hacktivist group also hacked emails of Press TV state channel staff and the employees of Al-Zahra University in Tehran, urging them to support the protests.

Civil unrest in the country began in mid-September after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested for a supposed breach of the official dress code and allegedly beaten to death in custody of the notorious morality police. Black Reward says it sent five million text messages to Iranian people at the beginning of October, inviting them to take their outrage to the streets.

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