Iran opens new consulate in Iraq’s Basra after attack

Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services (CTS) members secure the street close to the Basra International Hotel where Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi stays in Basra. (AFP)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Iran opens new consulate in Iraq’s Basra after attack

BASRA: Iran’s ambassador to Iraq opened a new consulate for his country in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, four days after its old mission building was torched by protesters.
Basra has seen a surge in deadly protests in the past week, with demonstrators angry about poor public services setting alight several key buildings.
“I’m here to inaugurate the new premises of our Iranian consulate in Basra... because we don’t want lose a single day of services for the people of Basra,” said ambassador Iraj Masjedi.
The envoy was speaking at a news conference before the Iranian flag was hoisted outside the building now operating as the Islamic republic’s consulate in the city.
Iran is one of two major powers present in neighboring Iraq, along with the United States.
Many pilgrims from Iran are expected to travel to Iraq in around 10 days for the Ashura rituals and in October for the Arbaeen commemorations.
The Iranian consulate building in Basra was torched by demonstrators on Friday, with its documents and equipment going up in smoke. None of its staff were injured.
Iran said the responsibility for any negligence over the incident lies with the Iraqi government, which announced an investigation into the security forces responsible for protecting the mission.


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 18 min 36 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.