Microsoft: SolarWinds hackers target 150 organizations with phishing

Microsoft: SolarWinds hackers target 150 organizations with phishing
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Updated 28 May 2021

Microsoft: SolarWinds hackers target 150 organizations with phishing

Microsoft: SolarWinds hackers target 150 organizations with phishing
  • The malevolent effort targeted about 3,000 email accounts at more than 150 different organizations
  • It said, the hackers gained access to USAID’s account at Constant Contact, an email marketing service

BOSTON, US: The state-backed Russian cyber spies behind the SolarWinds hacking campaign launched a targeted spear-phishing assault on US and foreign government agencies and think tanks this week using an email marketing account of the US Agency for International Development, Microsoft said.
The effort targeted about 3,000 email accounts at more than 150 different organizations, at least a quarter of them involved in international development, humanitarian and human rights work, Microsoft Vice President Tom Burt said in a blog post late Thursday.
It did not say what portion of the attempts may have led to successful intrusions.
The cybersecurity firm Volexity, which also tracked the campaign but has less visibility into email systems than Microsoft , said in a post that relatively low detection rates of the phishing emails suggest the attacker was “likely having some success in breaching targets.”
Burt said the campaign appeared to be a continuation of multiple efforts by the Russian hackers to “target government agencies involved in foreign policy as part of intelligence gathering efforts.” He said the targets spanned at least 24 countries.
The hackers gained access to USAID’s account at Constant Contact, an email marketing service, Microsoft said. The authentic-looking phishing emails dated May 25 purport to contain new information on 2020 election fraud claims and include a link to malware that allows the hackers to “achieve persistent access to compromised machines.”
Microsoft said in a separate blog post that the campaign is ongoing and evolved out of several waves of spear-phishing campaigns it first detected in January that escalated to the mass-mailings of this week.
While the SolarWinds campaign, which infiltrated dozens of private sector companies and think tanks as well as at least nine US government agencies, was supremely stealthy and went on for most of 2020 before being detected in December by the cybersecurity firm FireEye, this campaign is what cybersecurity researchers call noisy. Easy to detect.
Microsoft noted the two mass distribution methods used: the SolarWinds hack exploited the supply chain of a trusted technology provider’s software updates; this campaign piggybacked on a mass email provider.
With both methods, the company said, the hackers undermine trust in the technology ecosystem.


IMF official hopes Lebanon program talks can start before new year

IMF official hopes Lebanon program talks can start before new year
Updated 7 sec ago

IMF official hopes Lebanon program talks can start before new year

IMF official hopes Lebanon program talks can start before new year

An executive director at the International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday that he hopes program negotiations with Lebanon could start before the new year to try to pull the country's economy out of a crisis.

An IMF program is widely seen as the only way Lebanon can unlock foreign financial help which it desperately needs to emerge from one of the world's sharpest economic depressions.

“We hope the effort being made today will lead to access to all the data and to sufficient information ... all required data must be available first,” IMF’s Mahmoud Mohieldin said in a statement.

Mohieldin's remarks come after a meeting with Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Tuesday.

He added that any conditions the IMF would require “will not be harsher than what we see in Lebanon today.”

“I imagine that after the success of this program ... the required confidence can be restored to the economy and we positively bet on the ability of the economy and Lebanese people to respond to positive signals,” Mohieldin said.


Saudi economy to grow by 7.3% next year: Capital Economics

Saudi economy to grow by 7.3% next year: Capital Economics
Updated 19 October 2021

Saudi economy to grow by 7.3% next year: Capital Economics

Saudi economy to grow by 7.3% next year: Capital Economics

CAIRO: Economic research firm Capital Economics expects the Saudi economy to grow by 2.5 percent this year and by an impressive 7.3 percent in 2022. 

When compared to the firm’s pre-pandemic estimates, the country’s GDP would be about 3 percent higher by the end of 2023.

William Jackson, Chief Emerging Market Economist at CE, added: "This would make the Saudi economy one of the few in the world where GDP will be above its pre-pandemic trend over the forecast period.”

The company predicts that higher oil output, along with a less contractionary fiscal policy, would drive the economy’s recovery next year.

Saudi inflation is also projected to edge a little higher towards 1 percent by the end of this year and the first quarter of 2022. 

Following this period, the rise in consumer prices is expected to be in the 1-1.5 percent range. However, it could fall to a lower level in case the VAT rate dropped, the company pointed out.

The new report also offered an outlook for the whole region. Gulf countries’ economic recovery as a whole is expected to gain momentum due to their strong vaccination rates and higher oil production.

In the UAE, rising oil output and the World Expo are expected to fuel the economy’s growth. 

Despite an expansion in economic activity driven by rising gas output, Qatar’s rebound could prove to be weaker than other GCC countries due to risks in the non-oil sector.

Meanwhile, Oman and Bahrain could face setbacks in their recoveries as they grapple with contractionary fiscal policies and mounting public debt.

In addition, Egypt’s recovery could gain pace in the next quarters as the economy re-opens. However, a weak vaccination campaign and a tight fiscal policy might hamper this trend. 

The firm expects the country’s economy to grow by 4.8 percent and 5.8 percent in 2020 and 2021 respectively.


TASI up 0.3 percent; supported by the banking sector: Market Wrap

TASI up 0.3 percent; supported by the banking sector: Market Wrap
Updated 19 October 2021

TASI up 0.3 percent; supported by the banking sector: Market Wrap

TASI up 0.3 percent; supported by the banking sector: Market Wrap

RIYADH: The Tadawul All Share Index rose on Tuesday by 0.3 percent, or 34 points, to 11.792 points. 

Some 198.6 million of shares changed hands in 341,000 deals, with heavy trading in ACWA Power, AL Rajhi, and Petro Rabigh. 

The market's rise is supported by an increase in banking shares, led by Al-Rajhi Bank, which rose by 3.1 percent — the highest increase since 2006.

Etihad Etisalat shares also rose by 2.8 percent, supported by the company's profit growth in the third quarter, which amounted to SR281 million — up 56.6 percent. The firm also reported a 7.4 percent growth in revenues.

The biggest winners today were National Buildings and Marketing by 12.1 percent, Shams by 4.3 percent, Al Naqool by 3.5 percent, Al Rajhi by 3.1 percent, Mebco by 2.9 percent, Mobily and Saudi Re by 2.8 percent. 

Other News:

Arabian Contracting Services Co. announced that 1.5 million shares will be offered to individual subscribers, the equivalent of 10 percent of the total shares offered for public subscription. The price of the offering ranges between SR90-100 per share, according to the director of the offering, GIB Capital.

The Arab Company for Internet and Communications Services "Solutions" achieved a net profit with the amount of SR257 million in the third quarter of 2021, compared to SR240 million for the same period last year — an increase of 7.08 percent 

The company said that the profit growth is mainly due to the increase in gross profit by 6.7 percent (SR29 million), thanks to a rise in total revenues by 0.46 percent (SR 9million) and a decrease in revenue costs by 1.3 percent (SR20 million)

The parallel stock market index Nomu closed up 24368.26 points, or 2.23 percent, where 464.4 thousand shares were traded, with 1885 deals. 

The biggest fallers today were Yansab by 3.5 percent, Arabia Insurance cooperative, Alinma Tokio Marine, and Petro Rabigh by 3.1 percent respectively, and Sumou and United Cooperative Assurance by 2.9 percent each.


Bitcoin futures highlight some pitfalls for new exchange-traded funds: Crypto Wrap

Bitcoin futures highlight some pitfalls for new exchange-traded funds: Crypto Wrap
Updated 19 October 2021

Bitcoin futures highlight some pitfalls for new exchange-traded funds: Crypto Wrap

Bitcoin futures highlight some pitfalls for new exchange-traded funds: Crypto Wrap

RIYADH: Bitcoin hit a six-month high and was within striking distance of its all-time peak on Tuesday, as traders bet an anticipated listing of a futures-based US exchange-traded fund (ETF) could herald investment flows into cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin has been known for its volatility for 13 years and has recently been trading fairly flat, but it has been surging around 40 percent this month on hopes that the emergence of Bitcoin ETFs will see billions of dollars managed by pension funds and other large investors flow into the sector.

ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF is expected to list on Tuesday under the ticker BITO, provided the U.S. regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, does not object.

Analysts said the ETF would also likely simplify access to cryptocurrencies for retail investors.

"It can attract flows from investors who prefer the ease of an ETF over the perceived risk of an exchange," Martha Reyes, head of research at crypto exchange Bequant said.

Other analysts have also cautioned that the fund will not invest directly in bitcoin rather in Chicago-traded futures, so any immediate effects of the flows may be limited.

Crypto ETFs have launched this year in Canada and Europe amid surging interest in digital assets. VanEck and Valkyrie are among fund managers pursuing such products listed in the US, although Invesco on Monday dropped its plans for a futures-based fund.

The Nasdaq on Friday approved the listing of the Valkyrie Bitcoin Strategy ETF and Grayscale, the world's largest digital currency manager, is planning to convert its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust into a spot bitcoin ETF, CNBC reported.

The launch of the first bitcoin futures ETF on Tuesday marks a major step toward legitimizing the cryptocurrency, but some investors in such funds may face higher costs compared with buying the digital currency itself, Reuters reported.

ProShares will be backed by the CME Group's bitcoin futures instead of the actual virtual asset itself. Its offering is expected to lead to more launches of futures-based ETFs in the coming days and weeks after years of regulatory roadblocks.

Market participants generally praised the relative ease and safety of owning an exchange-traded product instead of buying bitcoin from cryptocurrency exchanges and brokers.

Investors won't have to worry about custody and securing their digital wallets, although analysts said there are top-tier exchanges that offer these services to their customers as well.

Futures

A futures-based ETF price will not necessarily match the current price of the underlying asset.

"In most cases, such futures funds based on commodity assets such as gold tend to underperform physical ones," Mikkel Morch executive director at crypto and digital assets hedge fund ARK36 said.

In addition to the risk of a futures-based bitcoin fund underperforming bitcoin, it also comes with the cost of the futures roll-over, some analysts said. However, analysts believe investors will still buy the futures-based funds despite the higher cost.

Trading

Bitcoin, the leading cryptocurrency in trading internationally, traded higher on Tuesday, rising by 0.99 percent to $62,494 at 5:20 pm Riyadh time. While Ether, the second most traded cryptocurrency, traded at $3,813, up 0.57 percent, according to data from Coindesk.


Shipping industry faces ESG heat from lenders

Shipping industry faces ESG heat from lenders
Updated 19 October 2021

Shipping industry faces ESG heat from lenders

Shipping industry faces ESG heat from lenders

LONDON: Banks are demanding much stricter environmental criteria when financing shipping companies as investor pressure grows on the sector to accelerate going greener, according to Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Shipping, which transports about 90 percent of world trade, accounts for nearly 3 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions and BCG forecast the industry will need $2.4 trillion to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

“ESG-driven requests are already prompting more action from banks. Shipping is already feeling it and they (shipping companies) are under pressure now,” said Peter Jameson, partner with BCG, which are consultants for the COP26 UN climate summit that starts on Oct. 31.

Standard Chartered has already provided loans linked to sustainability targets for drilling group Odfjell and the shipping division of Oman’s Asyad Group, the bank has said.

“When looking at lending on new assets, banks are going to create a bigger conduit for CO2 reductions through their policies,” Jameson told Reuters.

“The banks are also seeing insurance companies feeling shareholder pressure and this is also causing big pension funds to reassess.”

ESG-related assets under management are estimated to represent up to 80 percent of total lending to shipping by 2030, BCG said.

UN shipping agency the International Maritime Organization has said it aims to reduce overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships by 50 percent from 2008 levels by 2050, but industry groups are calling for more progress from governments.