IRAN-ALBANIA | The World’s First True Cyber Conflict?

October 21, 2022 in Politics, Technology

In July and September 2022, Iran launched a series of highly damaging cyber attacks against Albania. Carefully planned and executed, the attacks targeted various Albanian government services and critical infrastructure. In response, Tirana severed diplomatic relations with Tehran, the first time any country has broken off diplomatic relations with another state following a cyber attack. But why did the Islamic Republic of Iran launch such a serious attack on Albania? On the surface, there would seem to be little reason for it. However, underneath there is a fascinating story.

To find out, check out this awesome video-summary by James Ker-Lindsay, taking an informed look at International Relations with a focus on conflicts, security, and statehood.

Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Iran has had extremely strained relations with many countries, not least of all the United States. This has led to forty years of tensions. As part of this, the United States has supported various dissident groups, including the People’s Mujaheddin Organization of Iran (PMOI), or Mojahedin-e-Khalq, also known as MEK. And it was this that seems to have been behind the latest attack. Having previously been based in Iraq, the group relocated to Albania in 2014-16 where it changed its tactics. Instead of direct armed insurgencies, it set up troll farms and came to the forefront on the online battle against Iran. And it’s this that appears to have led to the attack by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. But while the attack against Albania was heavily condemned by the United States, and other NATO members, Albania held off calling for joint action under the terms of the Chapter 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which provides for collective defence. Nevertheless, the incident raises some very important questions about cyber warfare and the future of conflict in the 21st century.


People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran
Albanian Foreign Ministry
Iran Foreign Ministry
Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency Report
Prime Minister Rama Address to Albanian on the Cyber Attacks Kryeministri Edi Rama - Një VENDIM I DETYRUAR I QEVERISË
US Treasury Department Iran Sanctions
Terrorists, cultists – or champions of Iranian democracy? The wild wild story of the MEK

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James Ker-Lindsay

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