One of Iran’s largest steel companies said on Monday it was forced to halt production after being hit by a cyber attack, apparently marking one of the largest such attacks on the country’s strategic industrial sector.
The state-owned Khuzestan steel company said experts had determined that the plant must stop work until further notice “due to technical issues” following “cyber attacks”. The company’s website was shut down on Monday.
The company’s CEO, Amin Avrahami, claimed that the company had succeeded in thwarting the cyber attack and preventing structural damage to the production lines that would affect the supply chains and customers.
“Fortunately with time and awareness, the attack was unsuccessful,” the semi-official Mehr quoted Avrahami as saying, adding that he expects the company’s website to be restored and everything to return to “normal” operation by the end of Monday.
A local news channel, Jamaran, reported that the attack failed because the plant did not operate at the time due to a power outage.
Iran has previously blamed the United States and Israel for cyber attacks that damaged the country’s infrastructure.
The Khuzestan steel company, based in Ahvaz in the oil-rich province of southwest Khuzestan, has a monopoly on steel production in Iran along with two other large state-owned companies.
The company was founded before the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979, for decades afterwards there were several production lines supplied by German, Italian and Japanese companies. The service was continuous except during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein sent his army across the border.
However, crushing sanctions on Iran due to its nuclear program have forced the company to reduce its dependence on foreign parts.
The government considers steel a crucial sector. Iran is the leading producer of steel in the Middle East and among the top 10 in the world, according to the World Steel Association. Its iron ore mines supply raw materials for local production and are exported to dozens of countries, including Italy, China and the United Arab Emirates.
However, Iran’s crude steel production was only 2.3 million tons last month. The corresponding decline in exports was largely attributed to sanctions hitting Russia that flooded Iranian Chinese buyers with discounted steel after it lost access to Western markets amid the war in Ukraine.