FCO condemns Iranian cyberattack against the BBC

A recent cyberattack on the broadcaster and a series of denial-of-service attempts against its Persian service are 'part of a wider campaign against the BBC' by the Iranian authorities, according to the Foreign Office

The government has hit out at the Iranian authorities over a cyberattack against the BBC, which has also suffered a series of denial-of-service attempts against its Persian Service.

BBC TV centre

The Foreign Office has criticised the Iranian authorities over cyberattacks aimed at the BBC, as well as harassment of relatives of Persian Service staff. Photo credit: Phil Parker on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Iranian government is involved in a campaign of jamming BBC broadcast signals and intimidating people in Iran associated with the broadcaster, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said on Tuesday.

"It has been a pattern of behaviour from the Iranian regime to target the BBC, which we condemn," a Foreign Office spokesman told ZDNet UK. "We see this [cyberattack] as part of a wider campaign against the BBC."

Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC, is expected to talk about the attempted disruptions in a speech to the Royal Television Society on Wednesday evening.

"There was a day recently when there was a simultaneous attempt to jam two different satellite feeds of BBC Persian into Iran, to disrupt the Service's London phone lines by the use of multiple automatic calls, and a sophisticated cyberattack on the BBC," Thomson plans to say, according to extracts of the speech released by the BBC on Wednesday.

"The cyberattack on the BBC is not the first we have experienced," he will say.

The broadcaster declined to give ZDNet UK more details of the cyberattack, such as whether it targeted systems based in London and when it occurred.

Thompson is expected to stop short of directly attributing the cyber campaign to the Iranian government. However, he will say that the timing of the incidents was "suspicious".

"It is difficult, and may prove impossible, to confirm the source of these attacks, though attempted jamming of BBC services into Iran is nothing new, and we regard the coincidence of these different attacks as self-evidently suspicious," Thompson is set to say.


The Iranian authorities have targeted the BBC by detaining relatives of those who work for the Persian Service in London, according to Thompson, who also described this problem in February.

"Arrest without charge, solitary confinement, threats and inducements to persuade their relations either to leave the [Persian] Service or to inform on it secretly to Iranian intelligence: this is how the Iranian government is trying to undermine the BBC Persian Service," he will say in the speech.

The Foreign Office said people seen as affiliated with the BBC have been the subject of a sustained campaign of harassment by the Iranian authorities "for some time".

"Such deplorable tactics illustrate again the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran, and the desperation of the regime to silence any independent voices and deny people in Iran access to impartial news reporting," it said in a statement.

Relations between the UK and Iran have not been smooth for a number of years. In December, Iran blocked the 'UK in Iran website' by adding it to a list of proscribed sites. In January, Ofcom revoked the licence of PressTV, the English-language arm of the Iranian state broadcaster, blocking it from UK broadcast on Sky.

Diplomatic relations have also been strained between the two countries. British authorities closed the Iranian embassy in the UK in November after an attack on the British Embassy in Tehran, according to Reuters.

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