Yemen government announces pay rise after mass protest

For more than a year, the government has been unable to pay salaries in the impoverished and war-torn country. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 03 September 2018
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Yemen government announces pay rise after mass protest

  • For more than a year, the government has been unable to pay salaries
  • Protest organizers have called for further civil disobedience until the government instates measures to aid millions of Yemenis

ADEN: Yemen’s embattled government has agreed to raise the salaries of thousands of public-sector employees, including pensioners, after hundreds of people protested in Aden against the rising cost of living.
For more than a year, the government has been unable to pay salaries in the impoverished and war-torn country, as the local currency plummets against the dollar.
Late Sunday a cabinet meeting in Riyadh chaired by President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, who has lived in exile since 2015, approved “an increase in civil sector salaries, including retirees and contractors,” Yemen’s state-run Saba news agency reported.
It was not immediately clear when the raise would take effect.
The decision came hours after hundreds of people took to the streets of Aden, the southern province that now serves as the government’s de facto capital, burning tires and blocking main roads to demand government aid.
Protest organizers have called for further civil disobedience until the government instates measures to aid millions of Yemenis struggling to survive.
The riyal has lost more than two-thirds of its value against the dollar since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government’s fight against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The economic downturn, along with a blockade on the rebel-held international airport and ports, has left Yemenis unable to afford food staples and bottled water.
In January, Saudi Arabia — Hadi’s main ally — announced a $2 billion bailout to help bolster the central bank. The riyal rose briefly that month but has since plummeted by a hefty 36 percent.
In 2016, more than one million civil servants lost their jobs as Hadi transferred the official central bank from Sanaa to Aden.
The rebels operate their own central bank from the capital, which they have controlled since 2014.
The Yemeni war has triggered what the UN calls the world’s largest single humanitarian crisis, with more than three-quarters of the population in need of humanitarian aid and 8.4 million at risk of famine.


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 10 min 7 sec ago
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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.