A cyber-war has been declared on Azerbaijan, head of Azerbaijan Internet Forum, Osman Gunduz, has said while commenting on Monday’s hacker attacks on the websites of Azerbaijani government agencies and media outlets.
"This was an attack on the official websites of about 40 state bodies…It should be taken into account that if this happens on a regular day, during a war they can totally crash our cyber-space. Such a threat may be in store for us," Gunduz said.
He noted that it is possible to establish the source of the hacker attacks.
"I think it is possible -- both hypothetically and in practice -- to determine which IP addresses were used."
A group of hackers calling themselves Azerian Cyber Army attacked the websites of the interior ministry, the communications ministry, the state customs committee, the council for state support to NGOs under the President, and the education ministry. Also attacked were the sites of the Constitutional Court, the ruling Yeni (New) Azerbaijan Party (YAP), the Baku-based Trend news agency and AzerTAj state news agency, as well as President Ilham Aliyev’s uncle, Academician Jalal Aliyev.
On the hacked websites the intruders posted critical remarks about Azerbaijan-Israel relations and an Israeli flag, and stressed the importance of wearing veils.
The same day, several websites in Israel -- including the sites of the El Al airline and the Tel Aviv stock exchange -- were attacked, according to Radio Liberty.
Though the source of the attack has not been officially reported, some in Azerbaijan believe it could have been carried out by Iran.
The YAP website said that it was previously attacked last month by hackers based in Iran, according to IP numbers that were linked to the cyberattack.
In retaliation, Azerbaijani hackers calling themselves the Pirates Crew crashed over 20 Iranian websites, including those of government agencies. They posted the Azerbaijani flag there.
The hackers also said they would continue attacking Iranian websites.
Meanwhile, a meeting between Azerbaijani, Iranian, and Turkish foreign ministers scheduled for Tuesday was suddenly canceled.
The official reason cited was that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu must attend the funeral of Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.
Months of tension
Relations between Azerbaijan and Iran have been particularly strained in recent months.
Tehran has criticized Baku's close relations with Israel, which regards Azerbaijan as a key friend among Muslim countries. Azerbaijani supplies account for about one-fifth of Israel's oil stocks.
Azerbaijan is also currently a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council, which regularly discusses Iran's controversial nuclear program.
In November, prominent Azerbaijani writer Rafiq Tagi was killed in an attack widely seen as retaliation for an anti-Iranian article he had published.
Although Tehran has denied any involvement in Tagi's killing, he was targeted in a 2007 fatwa by Iranian cleric Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani.
In December, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Araz Azimov, speaking in Washington, D.C., accused Iran of "vigorously and economically cooperating with Armenia," noting that "Iran has many more agreements with Armenia than with Azerbaijan."
He said Iranian support helps Armenia maintain its "occupation" of the Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh.