Qatar tells CNBC it has $340 bln in reserves, enough to weather sanctions

Qatar's Central Bank in Doha. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 10 July 2017
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Qatar tells CNBC it has $340 bln in reserves, enough to weather sanctions

DUBAI: Qatar has $340 billion in reserves including holdings of its sovereign wealth fund that could help the Gulf country to weather the isolation by its powerful Arab neighbors, central bank governor Sheikh Abdullah Bin Saoud Al-Thani told CNBC.
“This is the credibility of our system, we have enough cash to preserve any..kind of shock,” he told the news channel in an interview published early on Monday on its website.
Al-Thani said the central bank has $40 billion in reserves plus gold, while the Qatar Investment Authority has $300 billion in reserves that it could liquidate.
Qatari stocks have weakened and the riyal has been volatile in the spot market since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic and transport ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of backing terrorism. Dona has denied these allegations.
“Qatar has already had a good and unique system. We have laws established against all these kinds of terrorists ,” al Thani told CNBC. “We work with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and other institutions to establish our laws and audits and reviews.”
“We have no challenges, we welcome those to review all our books, they are open,” he added. Al-Thani said while the central bank has noticed fund outflows from some non-residents, the amounts weren’t particularly significant.
“There is more coming in,” he said, confirming that inflows are exceeding outflows.
He said long-term contracts in the gas and oil sectors were not seeing any disruptions.
Rating agency Moody’s Investors Service earlier this month changed the outlook on Qatar’s credit rating to negative from stable, citing economic and financial risks arising from the ongoing dispute between Qatar and the Saudi-led alliance.
Despite the market ructions, economists say Qatar, the world’s top liquefied natural gas exporter, has taken a number of measures such as a planned boost in gas output and new transport routes to weather the crisis.


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.