US warning about attacks on energy and industrial firms

A member of the Iraqi government forces' stands guard at a humvee turret while guarding the Bai Hassan oil field, west of the multi-ethnic northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, in this 19, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 21 October 2017
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US warning about attacks on energy and industrial firms

WASHINGTON: The US government issued a rare public warning about hacking campaigns targeting energy and industrial firms, the latest evidence that cyber attacks present an increasing threat to the power industry and other public infrastructure.
The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation warned in a report distributed via email late on Friday that the nuclear, energy, aviation, water and critical manufacturing industries have been targeted along with government entities in attacks dating back to at least May.
The agencies warned that hackers had succeeded in compromising some targeted networks, but did not identify specific victims or describe any cases of sabotage.
The objective of the attackers is to compromise organizational networks with malicious emails and tainted websites to obtain credentials for accessing computer networks of their targets, the report said.
US authorities have been monitoring the activity for months, which they initially detailed in a confidential June report first reported by Reuters. That document, which was privately distributed to firms at risk of attacks, described a narrower set of activity focusing on the nuclear, energy and critical manufacturing sectors.
Homeland Security and FBI representatives could not be reached for comment on Saturday morning.
Robert Lee, an expert in securing industrial networks, said the report describes activities from two or three groups that have stolen user credentials and spied on organizations in the US and other nations, but not launched destructive attacks.
“This is very aggressive activity,” said Lee, CEO of cyber-security firm Dragos.
He said the report appears to describe groups working in the interests of the Russian government, though he declined to elaborate.
Dragos is also monitoring other groups targeting infrastructure that appear to be aligned with China, Iran and North Korea, he said.
The hacking described in the government report is unlikely to result in dramatic attacks in the near term, Lee said, but he added that it is still troubling: “We don’t want our adversaries learning enough to be able to do things that are disruptive later.”
The report said that hackers have succeeded in infiltrating some targets, including at least one energy generator, and conducting reconnaissance on their networks.
It was accompanied by six technical documents describing malware used in the attacks.
Homeland Security “has confidence that this campaign is still ongoing and threat actors are actively pursuing their objectives over a long-term campaign,” the report said.
Government agencies and energy firms previously declined to identify any of the victims in the attacks described in June’s confidential report.
— Reuters


More Saudi sectors opened to foreign investment

The Cabinet amended the sectors excluded from foreign investment at the meeting chair by King Salman. (SPA)
Updated 24 October 2018
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More Saudi sectors opened to foreign investment

  • The amendment allows foreigners to invest in labor services and jobs, including recruitment offices; audio and video services; road transport services; and brokerage services for real estate

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will allow foreigners to invest in audiovisual services, land transport and real-estate brokerages, the Cabinet decided on Tuesday.

The Cabinet amended what it described as types of activity that had been previously excluded from foreign investment, after concluding its weekly meeting chaired by King Salman.

The amendment allows foreigners to invest in labor services and jobs, including recruitment offices; audio and video services; road transport services; and brokerage services for real estate.

Meanwhile, about 320 foreign institutions have registered as qualified foreign investors in the Saudi stock market, the exchange’s chairwoman told the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh.

Sarah Al-Suhaimi, chairwoman of the Saudi Arabian stock exchange (Tadawul), said 200 more are expected to register.

Global index provider MSCI classified the Saudi equity market as an emerging market in June, a move expected to attract billions of dollars of passive funds.

Al-Suhaimi said she expected the number of qualified foreign investors to increase before and after the inclusion in the index, which is expected to happen in phases coinciding with index reviews in May and August 2019.