Iranian state TV shows footage of dissidents after apparent hack

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Several Iranian state television channels broadcast footage on Thursday showing the leaders of a dissident group in exile and a graphic calling for the death of the country’s supreme leader, an incident the ‘author

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Several Iranian state television channels broadcast footage on Thursday showing the leaders of a dissident group in exile and a graphic calling for the death of the country’s supreme leader, an incident the authorities later described it as a hack.

For several seconds, graphics flashed on the screen, interrupting the broadcast to depict the leaders of the opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq. The name of a social media account, which claimed to be a hacker group that spread the message honoring dissidents, also emerged. Two state radio stations were also shut down.

Shahin Gobadi, a Paris-based spokesman for the MEK, later told The Associated Press, “We, like you, have just been made aware of the issue.”

“It appears to have been done by MEK supporters and resistance units within the regime’s radio and television stations,” he said, without directly claiming responsibility. He provided no evidence to support his claim.

The hack represented a major breach of Iranian state television, long seen as controlled and exploited by members of the Islamic Republic’s intelligence services, particularly its hardline Revolutionary Guards. Such an incident had not happened for years.

A clip of the incident seen by the AP showed the faces of MEK leader Massoud Rajavi and his wife Maryam Rajavi suddenly superimposed on the channel’s regular 3 p.m. programming. A man’s voice chants: “Hail to Rajavi, death to (Supreme Leader) Khamenei.”

Then, a speech by Rajavi briefly plays on the images. He can be heard saying, “Today we still honor the moment when we declared the reactionaries dead. We stuck to it.

Massoud Rajavi has not been seen publicly for nearly two decades and is presumed dead. Maryam Rajavi now leads the MEK.

Iranian state television said authorities would investigate the intrusion. It was apparently the latest in a series of embarrassing cyberattacks on the Islamic Republic as world powers struggle to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers. Other attacks, which Iran has blamed on Israel, were directed against its nuclear program.

In October, an assault on Iran’s fuel distribution system crippled gas stations across the country, resulting in long lines of angry motorists unable to obtain subsidized fuel for days. A cyberattack on Iran’s rail system has caused chaos and train delays. another hack abuse images leak in his notorious Evin prison.

Iran, long sanctioned by the West, struggles to procure up-to-date hardware and software, often relying on Chinese-made electronics or older systems. Some control room systems in Iran are running Windows 7, for which Microsoft no longer provides patches. This would make it easier for a potential hacker to target. Pirated versions of Windows and other software are common throughout Iran.

Reza Alidadi, a senior state television official, later told the broadcaster that the attack may have involved help from foreigners.

“It seems that the incident is not simple and it is a complicated job that (only) the owners of the technology are able to use,” he said, without giving further details.

Breaks in Iranian state television broadcasts have already occurred. In 1986, those watching state television in Iran were surprised to see the country’s crown prince in exile, Reza Pahlavi, give a speech lasting around 11 minutes. He expressed his determination to fight Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, and asked Iranians for their support.

At the time, people speculated that Pahlavi potentially received help from a foreign intelligence agency that smuggled a transmitter into the country to hijack the signal.

The MEK started as a socialist organization against the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. He claimed and was suspected of involvement in a series of attacks on US officials in Iran in the 1970s, which the group now denies.

He supported the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but soon fell out with Khomeini and turned against the mullahs’ regime. He carried out a series of assassinations and bombings targeting the young Islamic Republic.

The MEK then fled to Iraq and supported dictator Saddam Hussein during his bloody eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s. This saw much opposition to the group in Iran. Although largely based in Albania, the group to this day claims to operate a network inside Iran.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

Jon Gambrell, Associated Press

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