Houthi militias looting, selling cholera drugs on black market: Officials

Newly-recruited Houthi fighters take part in a gathering in the capital Sanaa, Yemen. (AFP)
Updated 20 July 2017
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Houthi militias looting, selling cholera drugs on black market: Officials

JEDDAH: The behavior of Houthi militias has exacerbated the spread of cholera in Yemen, according to Yemeni officials.
The daily death toll announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) is constantly increasing.
According to the latest statistics, 1,817 people have died of cholera in less than three months.
There have been 363,000 cases of the disease reported in 21 of the 22 Yemeni governorates since April 27.
Socotra, a Yemeni island in the Arabian Sea, has so far been free of cholera.
Officials in the internationally recognized government have warned of the consequences of Houthi militias looting and stealing drugs that treat the disease. They have urged the international community to act immediately to stop this.
Yemen’s Minister of Local Administration Abdel-Raqib Fath, who is also head of the Higher Relief Committee, denounced the Houthis for trading the drugs and selling them on the black market in the provinces of Hodeidah, Hajah, Ibb and Dhamar.
He said the silence of UN organizations is putting Yemeni lives in even greater danger.
He labeled these actions by the Houthis “terrorist and totally inconsistent with all humanitarian principles and laws.”
Yemen’s permanent representative to the UN, Khalid Al-Yamani, said the situation in areas under Houthi control is becoming increasingly complicated due to the massive cholera outbreak.
He added that the Houthis had refused to cooperate with the international community and to assist intensive efforts by the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSRelief), the WHO, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the World Food Program.
Yemeni media sources and eyewitnesses said supervisors appointed by the Houthis were selling the free cholera drugs and treatments to commercial pharmacies in Sanaa, Dhamar, Ibb and Hodeidah.
The sources said the Houthis were using many militiamen to loot the drugs provided by the WHO, then sell them on the black market at very high prices to increase their revenues.
The sources added that the Houthis had also confiscated drugs that treat heart disease, kidney disease and cancer.
The WHO recently announced the arrival of 67 tons of medicine in Sanaa to treat cholera patients free of charge.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, deputy prime minister and defense minister, ordered a donation of $66.7 million to treat the cholera epidemic in various parts of Yemen. The donation was made in response to requests by the WHO and UNICEF.
Prince Mohammed has also sent 550 tons of medicines and supplies to help detect and treat cholera.
The legitimate Yemeni government thanked him for helping to relieve Yemeni suffering.
“Our brothers in the Saudi Kingdom have always been known for their humanitarian attitudes and leadership,” the Yemeni prime minister said.
The minister of social affairs and labor praised the role of KSRelief in providing medicines and medical supplies to fight cholera.
She said the Kingdom had become a role model in humanitarian work in the Arab world via KSRelief’s generous support, especially in Yemen.


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.