Skip to main content

Has Iran-Saudi cyberwar already started?

After an Iranian website was hacked, some Iranian websites are speculating as to whether or not an Iranian-Saudi cyberwar has begun.

Numerous Iranian media outlets reported May 25 that the website The Statistical Center of Iran was hacked and temporarily put out of use. News agencies wrote that the hackers were “outside of Iran” but little else was known about them. Some websites speculated that either the Islamic State (IS) or Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia conducted the attack. The low-level attack, which was followed by two attacks on Saudi Arabian statistical websites May 26, raised the question in Iranian media whether Saudi-Iranian cyberwars have begun.

In an articled headlined “The announcement of a cyberwar by Saudi Arabia against Iran?” Tabnak News agency wrote, “While many websites assumed this website was hacked by [IS] … it appears it is a Saudi hacker group.” Tabnak rejected the idea of IS involvement because the hackers referred to themselves as “Da۳s,” as in “Daesh,” an acronym the terrorist group does not use for itself. A Twitter account associated with Da۳s hackers followed a few well-known Saudi accounts, and Tabnak concluded that a Saudi group had conducted the attack with government backing. In any case, the screenshots provided of the hacked website appear to show that the hackers either wanted Iran to know that they were Saudi or that they intended to make it appear that they were.

An article in the Iran newspaper run by the Hassan Rouhani administration, perhaps in an attempt to downplay the speculation and tensions, reported that a source in the Statistical Center of Iran denied that its website was hacked at all. The official called the problems with the site “a natural issue with no relation to [IS] or other individuals.” The official added, “We should not open this small issue so wide that it creates rumors in the country.” The official also urged Iranians to not fan the flames of rumors.

Tasnim News Agency reported May 26 that two Saudi statistical websites were hacked just one day after Iran’s statistics center was hacked. According to the article, no one had taken responsibility for the hacking, but some social media users speculated that the attacks on the Saudi statistical websites were revenge attacks for the hacking of Iranian statistical websites. In a special report May 25 headlined “Saudi Arabia’s cyberwar against Iran, what is Iran’s cyber army’s response?” Tasnim wrote that the hacker group Da۳s also put an image of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Iran’s statistical website, concluding that the hackers therefore are likely linked to Baathists or takfiri groups. Tasnim reported that Gen. Gholam Reza Jalali, who heads a military unit in charge of combating sabotage, had warned that Saudi Arabia intended to conduct cyberattacks against Iran, though few paid attention to his warnings. Jalali said cyberattacks will be the prime threat to Iran’s security this year.

Tasnim wrote that the attack on Iran’s statistical center can be considered the “first bullet in the beginning of a cyberwar.” However, this may not have been the first bullet. According to US officials, Iran was behind the cyberattack on Saudi Aramco in 2012. In 2015, Saudi Arabia’s Oil Ministry website was hacked by a group claiming to be Iranians.

Iran itself has been the victim of cyberattacks. The United States was behind an attack on Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz, using a computer worm called Stuxnet, unique for its ability to cause physical damage.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

Already a Member? Sign in

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial