Digital traffic signs over major highways in Isfahan appeared on Tuesday to have been hacked to bear the slogan: “Khamenei! Where’s our gas?”
Videos were published on Persian-language social media in the afternoon showing vehicles passing under the compromised signs. Another said “Free gas at Jamaran gas station”, a reference to the home of Iran’s first Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The state-controlled ISNA news agency initially confirmed the videos’ authenticity, saying the billboards had been targeted in a cyberattack. But just minutes later, the news item was removed from ISNA’s website.
Gas stations had experienced heavy disruption for much of Tuesday, with long lines forming at stations around the country. ISNA also quoted Homayoun Salehi, president of the Association of Fuel Station Owners, as saying that gas stations had been hit by a cyberattack. People trying to buy fuel from machines with a government-issued card were reportedly being met with error messages. But this too was deleted, without any explanation.
Ali Forouzandeh, a spokesman for the Ministry of Oil, told the IRGC-affiliated Tasnim News Agency: "A technical problem has occurred in the fuel card system.” For now, he said, the “smart fuel distribution network” was offline and people could pay in cash.
Long lines for fuel continued into Tuesday evening in Tehran. The director of Isfahan Municipality’s traffic control center, Hadi Karimi, later told reporters that the digital traffic signs’ servers had been cut off “immediately” after the news broke. “Currently, the hacked boards are down,” he confirmed.
Mizan News Agency also cited sources close to the Supreme National Security Council as saying gas stations had been the subject of a cyberattack. Mizan also said that the source was “under investigation” and updates would be released in due course.
The sabotage comes weeks before the second anniversary of the November 2019 protests, which were sparked by a threefold hike in gasoline prices and were brutally suppressed by security forces and the police.