EXCLUSIVE: Cyber attackers strike Iranian oil platforms

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Cyber attackers have targeted communication networks on Iranian offshore oil and gas platforms in the past few weeks, but their attacks have been repelled, a state official was quoted as saying on Monday.

Iran, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, has tightened cyber security since its uranium enrichment centrifuges were hit in 2010 by the Stuxnet computer worm, which Tehran believes was planted byIsrael or the United States.

Mohammad Reza Golshani, head of information technology for the Iranian Offshore Oil Company, told Iran's Mehr news agency that a cyber attack had targeted the offshore platforms' information networks.

"This attack was planned by the regime occupying Jerusalem (Israel) and a few other countries," Golshani said, adding that Iranian experts were able to repel the attacks.

"Currently telephone operations on the platforms and in the areas of Iran's oil and gas operations in the Persian Gulf are normal and have no problems," he said.

Israeli officials regularly decline to comment on allegations of any clandestine activity. Israel has threatened military action against the Islamic Republic's nuclear installations if Western sanctions on Tehran's banking and oil sectors do not persuade it to shelve its disputed atomic programme.

Western powers suspect Iran is trying to develop the means to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran says it is enriching uranium only for civilian energy.

Last week an Iranian official said cyber attackers had targeted Iranian infrastructure and communications companies, disrupting the Internet across the country.

And last month a commander in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said Iran was prepared to defend itself in case of a "cyber war" and deemed it more dangerous than a physical confrontation.

In April Iranian authorities said in April that a computer virus was detected inside the control systems of Kharg Island, which handles the vast majority of Iran's crude oil exports, but the terminal remained operational.

Tehran is working towards developing a national Internet system, which it says would improve cyber security. But many Iranians say the plan is the latest way to control their access to the Web, which is already highly censored.

(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati; editing by Jane Baird)

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