Afghan spymaster claims Russia, Iran are assisting Taliban

In this file photo, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai speaks during an interview in Kabul December 31, 2012. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 February 2018
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Afghan spymaster claims Russia, Iran are assisting Taliban

KABUL: The head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) intelligence agency, Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai, claimed over the weekend that Russia and Iran are aiding the Taliban.
The militant group is currently regaining its grip on the country, with the BBC reporting last week that it is now openly active in 70 percent of Afghanistan — “much more territory than when foreign combat troops left in 2014.”
“There is evidence that Russia and Iran are somehow helping the Taliban, but not to the extent that the propaganda reports claim,” Stanekzai told the BBC’s Dari service in an interview this week.
Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi told reporters this week that Iran is not interfering in Afghanistan’s “internal affairs.”
The Russian Embassy in Kabul did not respond to Arab News’ requests for comment.
Moscow has, in the past, confirmed ties with the Taliban, but claims it maintains that relationship solely to safeguard Russian nationals in Afghanistan and in the hope of restarting stalled Afghan peace talks.
Afghan officials have repeatedly accused Moscow and Tehran of providing both money and weaponry to the Taliban. However, Stanekzai is the first high-level government official to publicly accuse them of supporting the insurgents.
The emergence of Daesh in Afghanistan and its expansion in pockets of northern areas in recent months has been a source of concern not just for Afghans, but also for regional players, including Russia and Iran.
Russian presidential envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told Russia’s Sputnik news agency at the end of last year that pro-Daesh militants fleeing Iraq and Syria were entering Afghanistan.
Members of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission told Arab News at the time that it had no evidence of the migration of foreign fighters into Afghanistan from Syria or Iraq.


FBI warns Russians hacked hundreds of thousands of routers

Updated 25 May 2018
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FBI warns Russians hacked hundreds of thousands of routers

WASHINGTON: The FBI warned on Friday that Russian computer hackers had compromised hundreds of thousands of home and office routers and could collect user information or shut down network traffic.
The US law enforcement agency urged the owners of many brands of routers to turn them off and on again and download updates from the manufacturer to protect themselves.
The warning followed a court order Wednesday that allowed the FBI to seize a website that the hackers planned to use to give instructions to the routers. Though that cut off malicious communications, it still left the routers infected, and Friday’s warning was aimed at cleaning up those machines.
Infections were detected in more than 50 countries, though the primary target for further actions was probably Ukraine, the site of many recent infections and a longtime cyberwarfare battleground.
In obtaining the court order, the Justice Department said the hackers involved were in a group called Sofacy that answered to the Russian government.
Sofacy, also known as APT28 and Fancy Bear, has been blamed for many of the most dramatic Russian hacks, including that of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 US presidential campaign.
Earlier, Cisco Systems Inc. said the hacking campaign targeted devices from Belkin International’s Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear Inc, TP-Link and QNAP.
Cisco shared the technical details of its investigation with the US and Ukrainian governments. Western experts say Russia has conducted a series of attacks against companies in Ukraine for more than a year amid armed hostilities between the two countries, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and at least one electricity blackout.
The Kremlin on Thursday denied the Ukrainian government’s accusation that Russia was planning a cyberattack on Ukrainian state bodies and private companies ahead of the Champions League soccer final in Kiev on Saturday.
“The size and scope of the infrastructure by VPNFilter malware is significant,” the FBI said, adding that it is capable of rendering peoples’ routers “inoperable.”
It said the malware is hard to detect, due to encryption and other tactics.
The FBI urged people to reboot their devices to temporarily disrupt the malware and help identify infected devices.
People should also consider disabling remote-management settings, changing passwords and upgrading to the latest firmware.