UK calls on Iran not to threaten regional security

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stands as army air force and air defense staff salute at the start of their meeting in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. (AP)
Updated 08 February 2018
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UK calls on Iran not to threaten regional security

PARIS: Britain on Thursday said Iran must avoid actions that threaten regional security.
Alistair Burt, the Minister for the Middle East, said the UK was working with its partners to tackle US concerns over the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, Reuters reported.
“We and our European partners are absolutely clear. We want the deal to succeed,” Burt told a Euromoney Iran conference in Paris.
“We don’t want to see the JCPOA (deal with Iran) go down and are working with our European partners to mitigate concerns the United States may have to ensure it continues.
Donald Trump has threatened to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action by May if certain aspects of the deal are not made tougher.
The US is concerned that Tehran continues to develop its ballistic missiles despite the deal aimed at curbing Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon.
Arab Gulf countries have welcomed the US president’s tougher approach to the deal and say that since 2015, Iran has accelerated its aggressive policies in the region, particularly in Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.
Iran insisted on Thursday there was no link between its role in the Middle East region and the nuclear deal.
“We have always fought against terrorism. Iran has always played a key role in bringing stability and peace to the region,” Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Reuters at the economy conference in Paris.


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.