Musa Mustafa Musa, the accidental candidate

Musa Mustafa Musa
Updated 07 February 2018
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Musa Mustafa Musa, the accidental candidate

CAIRO: Last August, a page appeared on Facebook supporting the candidacy of Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for president of Egypt, a post he currently holds but is seeking to win again in the elections in March.
The Facebook page, which had the word “supporters” emblazoned across El-Sisi’s image, was only one of many and was hardly noticed by Egypt’s 40 million social media users, as was the image in one corner of the man who had created the page, Musa Mustafa Musa.
Today, however, both he and his Facebook page are the talk of the country after Musa declared that he too, is running for president next month. He made his bombshell announcement on Jan. 29, a day before the deadline for candidates to declare themselves, and submitted his nomination papers to the national electoral commission with just 15 minutes to spare before nominations closed.
Suddenly his little-noticed “Sisi for president” social media campaign has become a rallying cry for the opposition, since Musa is the president’s only challenger in the election.
All other contenders have either withdrawn or been disallowed. Gen. Sami Annan and Col. Ahmed Qanswa were both disqualified because army rules forbid serving military personnel from running for president. Qanswa was jailed for six years for violating military regulations by announcing his candidacy and Annan is in prison awaiting trial.
Ahmed Shafiq, who was appointed prime minister after the 2011 uprising and fled into exile after narrowly losing the 2012 presidential election to Mohammed Morsi, announced his candidacy from the United Arab Emirates and then withdrew it after returning to Egypt.
The prominent reformist lawyer Khaled Ali also withdrew because of misgivings about the political process. Other lesser-known potential candidates had to drop out because they failed to gain the necessary number of supporters.
All of which has led to speculation that 66-year-old Musa is a “fake” candidate, standing purely for show so that El-Sisi does not run unopposed and the election looks like a genuine poll.
Although he has been politically active for nearly 20 years, Musa’s name has never been to the forefront.
His profile was perhaps highest in 2005 when he was sacked as deputy leader of the opposition Ghad Party after a split with the party leader, Ayman Nour, who lost to Hosni Mubarak in the presidential election of that year. Musa declared himself to be the true leader of the party and stood for parliament in 2010 in a southern Giza constituency but failed to win a seat in the People’s Assembly.
In 2014 he launched the Kamel Jamilak (“finish your good deed”) campaign in support of El-Sisi. That support remained unwavering until Jan. 29, when, at a press conference from Ghad party headquarters, Musa announced he had collected the required 20-plus signatures from parliamentarians and 25,000 eligible voters that would allow him to stand for president.
The following day, the national electoral commission confirmed he had met all the conditions to stand in the 2018 election.
But his campaign has already run into controversy. Candidates for president of Egypt are required to hold at least an undergraduate degree. Musa’s background is in contracting and manufacturing in construction, agriculture, textiles and paints, and his qualifications have been questioned by his old party boss, Ayman Nour.
In interviews with the Egyptian press, Musa said he had a bachelor’s degree in architecture from a French university. But Nour claimed Musa only holds a qualification from an industrial technical institute, to which Musa responded — somewhat confusingly — that his diploma was equivalent to a master’s degree.
As well as leading the Ghad party after 2011, he has also been president of the Egyptian Council of Egyptian and Arab Tribes, and chaired the Arab Council for Development Projects since 2016.
He announced he was running for president in the 2012 election but never submitted his candidacy papers, despite claiming widespread support in 20 of Egypt's 27 provinces. This was well within the requirements of the 2014 Presidential Elections Act, which stipulates candidates must collect signatures of support from at least 25,000 eligible voters in at least 15 provinces or governorates.
In response to accusations that his candidacy is “phony,” Musa has threatened to sue anyone who calls for an election boycott, which he says would amount to an act of betrayal.
“Those who call for a boycott want to embarrass Egypt before the countries of the world,” he said.
He also says he see no contradiction in his being both a supporter of El-Sisi and his electoral opponent.
“If I don’t succeed (in winning the election), I will be in solidarity with president El-Sisi,” he said.


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.