Following an investigation into a cyberattack in July, Albania is terminating diplomatic ties with Iran and has given Iranian diplomats and embassy personnel 24 hours to depart, according to Prime Minister Edi Rama.
“The government has decided with immediate effect to end diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Rama said in a video statement sent to the media.
“This extreme response… is fully proportionate to the gravity and risk of the cyberattack that threatened to paralyze public services, erase digital systems and hack into state records, steal government intranet electronic communication and stir chaos and insecurity in the country,” Rama said.
The Iranian embassy in Tirana did not respond right away.
Iran was found to be responsible for the “reckless and irresponsible” cyberattack on July 15 after weeks of inquiry, the United States added, adding that it would stand by its NATO ally.
“The United States will take further action to hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a US ally and set a troubling precedent for cyberspace,” the White House National Security Council said in a statement.
Relations between the two nations have been tight ever since Albania welcomed 3,000 members of the Iranian opposition movement People’s Mujahideen Organization, also known as Mujahideen-e-Khalq in Farsi, who had established up camp near Durres, the nation’s largest port.
In the past, Albania claimed to have stopped a number of attacks by Iranian operatives intended for the Iranian dissident group.
“The in-depth investigation provided us with indisputable evidence that the cyberattack against our country was orchestrated and sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran through the engagement of four groups that enacted the aggression,” Rama said.
According to the White House, the US government has been working with private sector partners on the ground in Albania for weeks to conduct an investigation and assist Albania in recovering from the attack that destroyed government data and interrupted public services.
“We have concluded that the Government of Iran conducted this reckless and irresponsible cyberattack and that it is responsible for subsequent hack and leak operations,” it said.
The United States claimed that the strike was unprecedented since it went against the rule that key infrastructure should not be damaged during times of peace.