Dubai: An internet virus attacked computers at industrial sites in southern Iran, in an apparent extension of a covert cyber war that initially targeted the country's nuclear facilities, an Iranian official said.
Iran, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, has tightened online security since its uranium enrichment centrifuges were hit in 2010 by the Stuxnet computer worm, which Tehran believes was planted by arch-adversaries Israel or the United States.
The unit tasked with fighting cyber attacks, the Passive Defence Organisation, said a virus had infected several sites in Hormozgan province in recent months but was neutralised.
"Enemies are constantly attacking Iran's industrial units through Internet networks in order to create disruptions," Ali Akbar Akhavan, head of the Hormozgan branch of the organisation, was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students' News Agency.
"This virus has even penetrated some manufacturing industries in Hormozgan province, but with timely measures and the cooperation of skilled hackers in the province, the progress of this virus was halted," Akhavan said.
"As an example, the Bandar Abbas Tavanir Co., a producer of electricity in the province and even adjacent provinces, has been the target of Internet attacks in recent months," he said.
Bandar Abbas is the capital of Hormozgan province on Iran's southern coast and home to an oil refinery and container port.
Israeli officials have threatened military action against Iranian nuclear facilities if Western sanctions on Tehran's banking and oil sectors do not persuade the Islamic Republic to shelve its disputed atomic programme.
Iran will begin six days of naval drills in the Strait of Hormuz at the end of this week, an Iranian naval commander said, an exercise meant to showcase its military capabilities in what is a vital oil and gas shipping route.
The "Velayat 91" drills will be held from Friday to Wednesday across an area of about 1 million square kilometres in the Strait of Hormuz and northern parts of the Indian Ocean, said Habibollah Sayyari, according to Iranian media. Iran held a similar 10-day drill last December and sent a submarine and a destroyer into the Gulf.