The attack on Iran by a previously undetected virus may or may not be real, but the threat of attack from the hactivist group that took down major U.S. financial institutions in defense of WikiLeaks appears to be the real thing.
The hactivist group Anonymous claims to be behind a series of distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks that were launched against more than a dozen Iranian government sites at 1 a.m. Eastern time.
The release Anonymous posted on its news-announcement site April 29 threatened the attacks code-named Operation Iran could start anytime after midnight.
"OpIran attacks the governmental websites responsible for oppressing freedom of speech, information or ideas," the statement read.
Among the sites taken offline by DDOS attacks are that of the Office of the Supreme leader, thought it is now back online. Other targets on the group's target list include that of the central federal police headquarters, Parliament, the Audit Court that monitors spending by Parlaiment, the Basij civilian militia that is often used to enforce the will of the more autocratic segments of the government, the prisons ministry and other targets.
Parlaiment and the Basij sites were down as of mid-afternoon EDT, though the Audit Court and Leader's site were both back online.
The command-and-control communication site Anonymous is using to coordinate attacks rotates the targets for participants, who use their own botnets, hacking skills or other resources to carry out attacks.
Early reports said the attacks were an attempt to reignite protest among the Iranian population that has been relatively quiet since the riots in 2009 and 2010 following a national election protesters claimed had been stolen by the sitting government.
In addition to video of the violence, the protests became notorious globally after a graphic video of the death of a young woman named Neda, who had been shot by Basij forces suppressing the protest, was posted on YouTube and went viral.
Other reports said the attacks would be, in part, a response to allegations that Iran had hacked the Housing Agency in Bahrain.
Amid sometimes-violent sectarian protests, Shiite groups have accused the Sunni-dominated Bahranian government of giving Sunnis a disproportionate share of housing benefits.
Iran is predominantly Shiite.
Anonymous has previously attacked what it called oppressive regimes in Egypt, Libyy and launched a campaign to degrade the Great Firewall of China.
It has also used its news site to rally support for victims of massive tornadoes in the South and, oddly, occasionally defended itself against what it said are attempts to blame it for events for which it was not responsible – primarily the attack on Sony and a recent release of "secret U.S. Chamber of Commerce documents."