Iran triples uranium enrichment capacity, conducts cyberattack on Albania

By September 16 2022, 13:19 Latest News No Comments

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has said Iran has tripled its uranium enrichment capacity and doubled its number of centrifuges over the last year as concerns grow over its accelerating nuclear activities. The revelation comes during ongoing nuclear negotiations over a renewed nuclear deal where Iran is controversially demanding the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) close its probes into suspected undeclared nuclear activities. Amidst the uncertainty, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has also condemned an Iranian state cyberattack against the Government of Albania in one of his first acts in his new position.

Israeli intelligence believes Iran has tripled its enrichment capabilities at the nuclear facility Fordow – a site which had been prohibited from such production by the JCPOA. Gantz said in a statement: “Iran currently enriches uranium to a level of 60%, but if it chooses to do so, it can raise the level to 90% (weapons grade)”.

The IAEA has active probes into a number of previously undeclared nuclear sites in Iran which have been complicated by repeat stonewalling by the regime in Tehran. Iran is now demanding the probe be closed as a prerequisite for signing a renewed JCPOA agreement. The U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken responded to these demands stating: “Iran seems either unwilling or unable to do what’s necessary to reach an agreement and they continue to try to introduce extraneous issues to the negotiations that make an agreement less likely”.

Last weekend, the UK, France and Germany released a statement saying they had “serious doubts” about Iran’s intentions for trying to use the probe as a bargaining chip within the negotiations.

Separately, the UK National Cyber Security Centre last week revealed that it believes a series of cyber-attacks against the Albanian Government, which took place from 16th July, were almost certainly carried out by the Iranian state. The Iranian attack destroyed data and disrupted essential government services, including utility payments, medical appointments and education. The attack shut down the website “e-Albania”, a portal used by Albanians to access a significant number of public services, and the websites of the Albanian parliament and the Prime Minister’s office. The attackers subsequently leaked sensitive government data, including emails from the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly stated: “Iran’s reckless actions showed a blatant disregard for the Albanian people, severely restricting their ability to access essential public services. The UK is supporting our valuable partner and NATO ally. We join Albania and other allies in exposing Iran’s unacceptable actions”.

According to the NCSC, Iran is an aggressive and highly capable cyber actor, with its operations being conducted by a complex network of organisations whose workforces are very likely a mix of government departmental and contractual staff.

This is not the first time Iran has been accused of conducting cyberattacks against significant targets. In 2018, the NCSC assessed that the Iran-linked MABNA Institute was almost certainly responsible for attacks against British and American universities, primarily to conduct intellectual property theft. In 2022, the NCSC, FBI and NSA identified a group of Iran-sponsored cyber-actors known as Muddy Water, who were targeting a range of state and private-sector organisations across Asia, Africa, Europe and North America.

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