Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama announced on Wednesday that the entire staff of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran was asked to leave within 24 hours.
This decision comes after severing diplomatic relations with Iran following the attribution of a July cyberattack that targeted Albanian government infrastructure to Iranian threat actors.
“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.
“This extreme response, one that is unwanted but totally forced on us, is fully proportionate to the gravity and risk of the cyberattack that threatened to paralyse public services, erase digital systems and hack into State records, steal Government intranet electronic communication and stir chaos and insecurity in the country.”
The United States government also formally blamed Iran for attacking Albania in July and said the country would be held accountable for threatening the security of a NATO ally.
“The United States strongly condemns Iran’s cyberattack against our NATO Ally, Albania,” U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said on Wednesday.
“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.
“The United States will take further action to hold Iran accountable for actions that threaten the security of a U.S. ally and set a troubling precedent for cyberspace.”
Cyberattacks could lead to war
In July 2021, President Joe Biden warned that cyberattacks that lead to severe security breaches could lead to a “real shooting war.”
“You know, we’ve seen how cyber threats, including ransomware attacks, increasingly are able to cause damage and disruption to the real world,” Biden said.
“I can’t guarantee this, and you’re as informed as I am, but I think it’s more likely we’re going to end up — well, if we end up in a war, a real shooting war with a major power, it’s going to be as a consequence of a cyber breach of great consequence.”
Biden’s remarks came one month after a NATO statement issued in mid-June saying that cyberattacks are comparable to “armed attacks” in some circumstances.
“We reaffirm that a decision as to when a cyber attack would lead to the invocation of Article 5 would be taken by the North Atlantic Council on a case-by-case basis,” the NATO communiqué reads [PDF].
“Allies recognise that the impact of significant malicious cumulative cyber activities might, in certain circumstances, be considered as amounting to an armed attack.”