Europol warns on Daesh cyber threat

Daesh fighters pictured in Iraq in 2014. (Supplied)
Updated 18 September 2018

Europol warns on Daesh cyber threat

  • Daesh said to be seeking malware on 'dark web'
  • Extremist groups also experimenting with digital currencies

LONDON: Daesh followers could be seeking cyber-attack tools from the so-called ‘digital underground,’ according to a new report from Europol.
With Daesh forces having lost most of their territorial strongholds in the Middle East since 2016, the terror organization has increasingly retreated to the web to continue its campaign.
The annual report published on Tuesday looks at current and anticipated threats in cybercrime across the globe, and comes just as the Syrian war seems to be entering its final stage with the last militant rebel fighters holding up in the province of Idlib.
Daesh had already become well-known for using encrypted messaging apps and the ‘dark web’- an area of the Internet not accessible to search engines — to promote itself and recruit new members to its organization.
Europe’s law enforcement agency’s report now suggests that Daesh may also considering the use of cyber-attacks and using the ‘dark web’ to buy illicit malware.
“There has been much concern and speculation over the past few years that terrorists could turn to launching cyber-attacks against critical infrastructure,” the report said.
Daesh-affiliated groups have only managed to carry out a handful of “low-level” cyberattacks in the last year, the report found, including the hacking of a Swedish radio station last year when the attacker managed to play out an IS song on air, the report said.
In March this year, Daesh supporters also attempted to set up an alternative to the social networking platform Facebook, called the “Muslim’s Network.”
While concerns are growing, Europol said the organization’s current cyber-crime abilities remain in their “infancy.”
Daesh is also far more likely to buy cyber-attack tools that use malware or ransomware technology, rather than develop their own tools yet, the report found. 

“While IS sympathizers have demonstrated their willingness to buy cyber-attack tools and services from the digital underground, their own internal capability appears limited,” the report read.
“While terrorist actors are aggregating open- source tools, they have yet to develop their own,” it added.
Extremist networks have also experimented with cryptocurrencies as a means of moving funds across borders, the report said.
Europol highlighted IS-affiliated websites calling for donations of the virtual currency Bitcoin last November.
As yet, no on-the-ground attack carried out in Europe has been funded with virtual currency, the report found, with financing still mainly coming from the conventional banking system and money remittance services.
The report recommended that efforts must be made to disrupt Daesh’s online propaganda in order to hinder the group’s “access to human expertise, funding and cyber tools.”
In July, a survey of academics specializing in cyberterrorism found that just over two-thirds of respondents thought cyberterrorism constituted a “significant threat.”
However, Stuart Macdonald, professor of law at Swansea University and author of the Cyberterrorism Project report told Arab News that there were differences surrounding the definition of cyberterrorism.
Cyberterrorism could potentially covering an attack that resulted in killing a huge number of people or it could just involve shutting down a website for a few hours, he said.
“But overall most agree that vulnerabilities exist in critical infrastructure. Where opinions tend to differ is whether terrorists have the capability to perpetrate acts of cyberterrorism and are motivated to commit acts of cyberterrorism as opposed to more traditional forms of physical attack.
“Some researchers believe that terrorists are likely to prefer traditional physical attacks, as these are more headline-grabbing and generally less expensive,” he said. Still, not all threats are associated with terror groups. Andrew Silke, professor of terrorism, risk and resilience at Cranfield University, said: "Today the major threat of cyber attacks comes from foreign governments, not terrorist groups and their sympathisers. Governments can control and commit the resources and knowledge needed  to carry out truly serious cyber attacks. "When thinking about security then, nations are already thinking in terms of what can be done to counter attacks orchestrated by a rival government. If your security and resilience is good enough to meet that type of threat, it will also be good enough to meet the threats posed by terrorists."



UAE property developers’ earnings give Gulf markets a boost

Updated 17 February 2019

UAE property developers’ earnings give Gulf markets a boost

  • Real estate sector gets confidence boost
  • DAMAC gains despite 87 pct drop in Q4 net profits

DUBAI: Most stock markets in the Middle East closed higher on Sunday, reflecting a rally in global stock markets on Friday, and were also boosted by better-than-expected company results, particularly in real estate.

The Abu Dhabi index gained 0.7 percent and the Dubai index 0.6 percent, as two of the largest property developers in the United Arab Emirates posted positive fourth-quarter financial results last week that beat market expectations.

“The market is starting to rebuild confidence in earnings as a driver for sentiment,” said Arqaam Capital in a research note. “Sentiment on the UAE was very weak in 2018, specifically for real estate, on concerns over oversupply risk, pricing pressure that is leading to extended payment plans, and a rental yield compression that is continuing to fall,” Arqaam said.

“But Q4 numbers provided evidence that a few developers have emerged as winners (Emaar Co’s, Aldar) out of market consolidation.” Emaar Properties, Dubai’s largest listed developer, reported a 27 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit.

The stock rose 2 percent on Sunday. DAMAC Properties closed up 0.8 percent, despite having reported a nearly 60 percent fall in full-year profit and an 87 percent drop in fourth-quarter net profits.

In Abu Dhabi, Aldar Properties gained 3.6 percent. Last week, the developer reported a rise in fourth-quarter earnings and higher dividends for 2018. In other sectors, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank rose 0.5 percent after saying it had no merger and acquisition plans. This was in response to a Bloomberg report last week which said the bank was considering such options.

The Saudi index closed 0.4 percent down, in contrast to the rest of the region’s markets. Arab National Bank reported an increase in full- year net profit to 3.13 billion riyals ($834.62 million) from 3.03 billion riyals one year earlier.

The stock remained unchanged and this failed to give support to the banking sector. Alinma Bank < 1150.SE> and Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp. lost 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

In Egypt, where the main index gained 1.4 percent, Orascom Investment Holding, up 3.2 percent, was among the stocks attracting the highest trading volume. Shares in the company jumped last week after its chairman, Egyptian billionaire businessman Naguib Sawiris, said he saw possible investment opportunities in North Korea if a summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump later this month was successful.

SAUDI The index lost 0.4 pct to 8,592 points ARABIA DUBAI The index rose 0.6 pct to 2,550 points ABU DHABI The index rose 0.7 pct to 5,070 points QATAR The index gained 0.7 pct to 10,011 points EGYPT The index rose 1.4 pct to 15,199 points KUWAIT The index gainedd 0.1 pct to 5,427 points OMAN The index was down 0.8 pct at 4,077 points BAHRAIN

The index went up 0.6 pct to 1,381 points ($1 = 3.7502 riyals)