Kurd rebels end hunger strike; deal hopes grow

Updated 19 November 2012
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Kurd rebels end hunger strike; deal hopes grow

ISTANBUL: Hundreds of Kurdish militants ended a hunger strike in jails across Turkey yesterday in response to an appeal from their leader, fueling hopes a deal had been struck that could revive talks to end a decades-old conflict.
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan called on his supporters to end their protest after holding a series of discussions with Turkish MIT intelligence agency officials, according to one media report.
Top MIT officials have held secret meetings with senior PKK representatives in Oslo in recent years and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in September more talks were possible.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in 28 years of fighting between Turkey and the PKK — designated a terrorist group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.
Ocalan’s call for an end to the hunger strike, which militants staged to demand an end to his isolation in an island prison south of Istanbul, was announced by his brother on Saturday.
“On the basis of our leader’s call ... we end our protest as of November 18, 2012,” Deniz Kaya, a spokesman for the jailed PKK militants, was quoted as saying in a statement by an association representing the inmates’ families.
The announcement was welcomed by the government, which had been increasingly worried any deaths during the hunger strike might provoke more violence.
“I hope we will not face such protests from now on. Turkey is a democratic country,” Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc was quoted as telling reporters by state-run Anatolian news agency.
“Whatever demands the people have, the government and politicians can air them in parliament,” he added.
A newspaper said on Sunday talks between Ocalan and Turkish intelligence officials over the last two months had paved the way for his appeal to end the protest, which lasted 68 days.
“A delegation went to Imrali on three occasions. A senior MIT official joined one of these visits and Ocalan’s intervention was sought to end the hunger strike,” the liberal daily Radikal said. It did not identify its sources.
Fighting between the PKK and Turkish forces surged over the summer. Ankara has linked the renewed hostilities to the conflict in neighboring Syria and accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of arming the PKK.


Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

Alister Shepherd, the director of a subsidiary of FireEye, during a presentation about the APT33 in Dubai Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Cybersecurity firm: More Iran hacks as US sanctions loom

  • The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.
  • Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

DUBAI: An Iranian government-aligned group of hackers launched a major campaign targeting Mideast energy firms and others ahead of US sanctions on Iran, a cybersecurity firm said Tuesday, warning further attacks remain possible as America reimposes others on Tehran.

While the firm FireEye says the so-called “spear-phishing” email campaign only involves hackers stealing information from infected computers, it involves a similar type of malware previously used to inject a program that destroyed tens of thousands of terminals in Saudi Arabia.

The firm warns that this raises the danger level ahead of America re-imposing crushing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry in early November.

“Whenever we see Iranian threat groups active in this region, particularly in line with geopolitical events, we have to be concerned they might either be engaged in or pre-positioning for a disruptive attack,” Alister Shepherd, a director for a FireEye subsidiary, told The Associated Press.

Iran’s mission to the UN rejected FireEye’s report, calling it “categorically false.”

“Iran’s cyber capabilities are purely defensive, and these claims made by private firms are a form of false advertising designed to attract clients,” the mission said in a statement. “They should not be taken at face value.”

FireEye, which often works with governments and large corporations, refers to the group of Iranian hackers as APT33, an acronym for “advanced persistent threat.” APT33 used phishing email attacks with fake job opportunities to gain access to the companies affected, faking domain names to make the messages look legitimate. Analysts described the emails as “spear-phishing” as they appear targeted in nature.

FireEye first discussed the group last year around the same time. This year, the company briefed journalists after offering presentations to potential government clients in Dubai at a luxury hotel and yacht club on the man-made, sea-horse-shaped Daria Island.

While acknowledging their sales pitch, FireEye warned of the danger such Iranian government-aligned hacking groups pose. Iran is believed to be behind the spread of Shamoon in 2012, which hit Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Qatari natural gas producer RasGas. The virus deleted hard drives and then displayed a picture of a burning American flag on computer screens. Saudi Aramco ultimately shut down its network and destroyed over 30,000 computers.

A second version of Shamoon raced through Saudi government computers in late 2016, this time making the destroyed computers display a photograph of the body of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi, who drowned fleeing his country’s civil war.

But Iran first found itself as a victim of a cyberattack. Iran developed its cyber capabilities in 2011 after the Stuxnet computer virus destroyed thousands of centrifuges involved in Iran’s contested nuclear program. Stuxnet is widely believed to be an American and Israeli creation.

APT33’s emails haven’t been destructive. However, from July 2 through July 29, FireEye saw “a by-factors-of-10 increase” in the number of emails the group sent targeting their clients, Shepherd said.