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December 28, 2022updated 18 Apr 2023 11:08am

Albania and Iran in cybersecurity stand-off – September 2022 in review

Iran and Albania went to cyber war, while the UK's new data legislation became a victim of political turmoil.

By Matthew Gooding

A cybersecurity showdown between two national governments made a splash in September. We start our look at September 2022’s headlines in Tirana.

Cyber warfare spilled over into real life in September, when an empty Iranian embassy building in Albania’s capital city Tirana was raided by counter-terrorism police as officers searched for evidence of links to a cyberattack carried out on the Baltic nation in July. The hack caused Albania to sever diplomatic ties with Iran.

Albania ordered Iran to leave the country after stating it was responsible for a cyberattack. (Photo by saaton/Shutterstock)

The Albanian government decided to take bold action after the hack, which forced the government to shut down a number of services and saw politicians’ data released to the public. It ordered Iranian diplomats to leave the country within 24 hours, and officials were spotted throwing papers into a rusty barrel and setting it alight inside the building just before they left and closed the embassy, according to local journalists. Nice of them to tidy up before they departed.

“This extreme response is fully proportionate to the gravity and risk of the cyberattack that threatened to paralyse public services, erase digital systems and hack into state records, steal government intranet electronic communication and stir chaos and insecurity in the country,” said Albanian prime minister Edi Rama.

Albania went on to blame Iran for a second cyberattack, which saw computer systems used by its state police taken down. The government in Tehran denied involvement in either incident. The Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations said it rejected “the baseless accusations of the US and the UK against the Islamic Republic of Iran regarding an alleged cyberattack on Albania”.

The Data Reform Bill returns, then doesn’t

What would turn out to be a particularly edifying period in British politics, Liz Truss‘s 44-day term as prime minister, began in September, and led to confusion around the fate of the UK GDPR replacement, the legislation formerly known as the Data Reform Bill.

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Now going by the snazzy new title, the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, a debate on the legislation was announced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) a day before the culmination of the Conservative leadership contest.

However, less than 24 hours later, as Truss was announced as the victor, the debate was cancelled. “Following the election of the new leader of the Conservative Party, the business managers have agreed that the government will not move the second reading and other motions relating to the data protection and digital information bill today,” the then leader of the House of Commons, Mark Spencer, said.

DCMS insisted that the bill would “continue its journey through the House of Commons in due course,” but as we would discover, this did not turn out to be the end of the story.

The legislation also lost one of its chief cheerleaders when Truss took office, as Nadine Dorries decided to resign from her role as DCMS secretary. Dorries, who had described the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill as “one of Brexit’s biggest rewards”, was asked to stay on by Truss, but the Boris Johnson ally decided to return to the back benches instead. Her replacement in the role was Michelle Donelan.

More from September 2022: Don’t be evil? Why Google can’t quit its military industrial complex

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