Eritrea sides with Gulf nations against Qatar

A picture of the entrance to a terminal hall at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, on Monday. Eritrea has thrown its support behind Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, which have suspended ties with Qatar over the emirate's alleged support for extremists, banning all flights to and from the capital Doha and shutting down the offices of the country's national carrier. (AFP / KARIM JAAFAR)
Updated 13 June 2017
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Eritrea sides with Gulf nations against Qatar

DOHA, Qatar: Eritrea has expressed support for Saudi Arabia and its allies after they cut ties with Qatar.
The Eritrean Information Ministry’s statement of support on Monday came despite its previously close ties with energy-rich Qatar.
The statement said the initiative by Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates “is not confined to Qatar alone as the potential of Qatar is very limited,” but is “one initiative among many in the right direction that envisages full realization of regional security and stability.”
The three countries along with Bahrain cut ties to Qatar last week over alleged Qatari support for Islamic extremists. Along with Bahrain, they have moved to block air, land and sea routes to the energy-rich Gulf nation.
Both Saudi and Qatari officials appear to be seeking support from Ethiopia. Qatari officials met Monday with Ethiopia’s prime minister and Saudi officials visited the Ethiopian capital over the weekend.
Qatar has remained defiant as the dispute worsened, Its foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, is welcoming diplomatic efforts to calm the standoff, but insists that no one can dictate its foreign policy.
Al Thani said Monday that Qatar is in contact with international aviation authorities and legal organizations as it tries to fight back against moves by Saudi Arabia and its allies to cut off its land, air and sea access.
Speaking after diplomatic meetings in Paris, Al Thani said Qatar is ready to negotiate anything “related to the collective security of the Gulf countries” but insisted that Qatari foreign policy is not open to debate.
He also said “no one has the right” to pressure Qatar to silence TV network Al Jazeera, which is based in Doha.
Al Thani has visited multiple European countries in recent days seeking diplomatic support.


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.