Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW
Iran has long engaged in phishing attempts as part of its cyberwarfare strategy. (File/AFP)
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Updated 05 December 2022

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW

Iran-backed hackers stage phishing campaign against activists, journalists: HRW
  • Espionage group linked to IRGC gains access to emails of 3 victims

LONDON: Iran-backed hackers have staged a targeted campaign against more than a dozen high-profile human rights activists, journalists, academics and government officials, Human Rights Watch said.

The organization found that a coordinated phishing attack had been launched by an Iran-linked hacking entity known as APT42, believed to be a cyberespionage group.

The HRW report said that two of its employees were targeted, alongside 18 other people, resulting in the hacking of emails belonging to three individuals.

APT42 gained access to the emails, cloud storage, calendars and contacts of a US newspaper correspondent based in the Middle East, a Gulf-based women’s rights activist as well as a refugee advocate in Lebanon.

HRW said that the phishing attack was launched via WhatsApp, with 15 of the targets receiving suspicious messages between September and November this year.

The message, disguised as a conference invitation, allowed APT42 to gain access to the Google accounts of the three victims after they were invited to enter their two-factor authentication details on false pretenses.

Iran has long engaged in phishing attempts as part of its cyberwarfare strategy.

Since 2010, hackers and espionage groups linked to the regime in Tehran have successfully hacked and leaked the data of government, military and business targets around the world.

In September, APT42 members were sanctioned by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department.

Google as well as cybersecurity businesses Recorded Future and Proofpoint have said that APT42 operates on behalf of Iranian authorities.

Earlier this year, cybersecurity company Mandiant said that the group’s activities were directed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

APT42 uses sophisticated social engineering strategies in disguising phishing attempts, HRW said.

In gaining the trust of victims, APT42 members use the real information of conference organizers to create fake accounts and contact high-profile activists and officials.

Previous attacks have seen the group impersonate members of the Munich Security Conference and the G20 Think 20 Summit in Saudi Arabia to contact targets and launch phishing attacks.

Abir Ghattas, information security director at HRW, said: “Iran’s state-backed hackers are aggressively using sophisticated social engineering and credential harvesting tactics to access sensitive information and contacts held by Middle East-focused researchers and civil society groups.

“This significantly increases the risks that journalists and human rights defenders face in Iran and elsewhere in the region.”

She added: “In a Middle East region rife with surveillance threats for activists, it’s essential for digital security researchers to not only publish and promote findings, but also prioritize the protection of the region’s embattled activists, journalists and civil society leaders.”


World powers rush to offer Turkiye, Syria aid over quake

World powers rush to offer Turkiye, Syria aid over quake
Updated 6 sec ago

World powers rush to offer Turkiye, Syria aid over quake

World powers rush to offer Turkiye, Syria aid over quake
PARIS: International offers to help Turkiye and Syria with rescue efforts poured in on Monday after a massive earthquake killed around 1,800 people and wreaked devastation.
The European Union has mobilized search and rescue teams for Turkiye after the stricken country requested EU assistance.
Ten urban search and rescue teams from various member states will support first responders on the ground, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and EU crisis management commissioner Janez Lenarcic said.
The EU’s Copernicus satellite system has also been activated to provide emergency mapping services, it added.
The EU is also ready to support those affected in Syria, it said.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi voiced “solidarity” with those affected in both countries, saying the UN agency was “ready to help provide urgent relief to the survivors through our field teams wherever possible.”
India said it would immediately send rescue and medical teams as well as relief equipment to Turkiye.
Two National Disaster Response Force teams comprising 100 personnel with dog squads and equipment were ready to be flown to the affected area, the foreign ministry said. Teams of trained doctors and paramedics with medicines were also being readied.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “anguished” and “deeply pained” by the deaths in Turkiye — with whom India has frosty relations — and Syria.
Germany — home to about three million people of Turkish origin — will “mobilize all the assistance we can activate,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said, after speaking with the Turkish ambassador to Berlin.
Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) “can set up camps to provide shelter as well as water treatment units,” she said.
The THW agency is also preparing generators, tents and blankets.
A foreign ministry spokeswoman said the German government would hold a crisis meeting later Monday with the relevant ministries to organize an aid package.
Berlin will also increase its assistance to charities such as Malteser International providing humanitarian aid in northwest Syria by one million euros ($1.1 million), she said.
President Vladimir Putin sent messages to Syrian President Bashar Assad and Turkiye’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, conveying Russia’s condolences and offering aid.
“We hope for a speedy recovery for all the injured and are ready to provide the assistance needed to overcome the impact of this natural disaster,” Putin told Assad.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that his war-torn country was “ready to provide the necessary assistance to overcome the consequences of the disaster.”
The message was reiterated by Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who said Ukraine was “deeply saddened by the loss of life and damage” wreaked by the earthquake.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, prime minister of Turkiye’s historic rival Greece, whose relations with Ankara have suffered from a spate of border and cultural disputes, pledged to make “every force available” to aid its neighbor.
Mitsotakis said Ankara had already approved the dispatch of a Greek emergency rescue unit, and Athens was ready to send “additional equipment, medical supplies, blankets, tents” depending on further Turkish requests.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg voiced “full solidarity” with ally Turkiye, saying he was in touch with Turkiye’s top leadership and “NATO allies are mobilizing support now.”
Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden, whose bid to join NATO is meeting Turkish resistance, tweeted: “Saddened about the loss of lives in Türkiye and Syria following the major earthquake. Our thoughts go to the victims and their loved ones.”
He sent his “deepest condolences” to President Erdogan. “We stand ready to offer our support.”
President Emmanuel Macron said France stood ready to provide emergency aid to Turkiye and Syria. “Our thoughts are with the bereaved families,” he tweeted.
“The UK stands ready to help in whatever way we can,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tweeted saying his thoughts were with the people of Turkiye and Syria.
Britain was sending 76 search-and-rescue specialists to Turkiye, a minister added.
Iran is ready to provide “immediate relief aid to these two friendly nations,” President Ebrahim Raisi said, offering condolences on the “heartbreaking incident.”

Arab countries send condolences to Turkiye, Syria over deadly earthquake

Arab countries send condolences to Turkiye, Syria over deadly earthquake
Updated 52 min 53 sec ago

Arab countries send condolences to Turkiye, Syria over deadly earthquake

Arab countries send condolences to Turkiye, Syria over deadly earthquake
  • More than 1,000 people are already known to have been killed in Turkiye and at least 762 in Syria

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign ministry expressed its solidarity and sympathy to Syria and Turkiye after an earthquake rocked both countries along their border, early on Monday morning.
The first earthquake – at 7.8 magnitude -  struck at about 4 a.m. local time on Monday, the second – at 7.7 magnitude – struck shortly before 2 p.m. as the search and rescue work continued.
More than 1,000 people are already known to have been killed in Turkiye and at least 762 in Syria, but the death toll continues to rise.
In a statement the ministry said Saudi Arabia was closely monitoring the situation in the disaster-hit area.
UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan also made two phone calls to President Bashar Al Assad of Syria and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkiye.
He offered his condolences to the two presidents and the citizens of both nations, and offered to provide assistance.
The Emir of Kuwait, Nawaf Al-Sabah in a letter to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan extended his condolences to the President and the families of the victims, wishing speedy recovery to the injured.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry conveyed its condolences and solidarity with Turkiye and Syria in a statement, affirmed its readiness to provide help.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry also extended its condolences to Turkiye and Syria.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has also extended condolences to Turkiye and Syria over the deadly earthquake that left hundreds dead in both countries. OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha called the OlC Member States and relevant institutions to contribute to the rescue efforts.


Israeli troops kill 5 Palestinian gunmen in West Bank raid

Israeli troops kill 5 Palestinian gunmen in West Bank raid
Updated 28 min 4 sec ago

Israeli troops kill 5 Palestinian gunmen in West Bank raid

Israeli troops kill 5 Palestinian gunmen in West Bank raid

AQABAT JABR: Israeli forces killed five Palestinian gunmen linked to the Islamic militant Hamas group in a raid on refugee camp in the occupied West Bank on Monday, the latest bloodshed in the region that will likely further exacerbate tensions.
The Palestinian president’s office called the violence a crime, urging the United States to pressure Israel to hold back on its incursions. The military said the raid was meant to apprehend a militant cell that staged a botched shooting attack on a restaurant in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
The violence comes amid one of the deadliest periods in years in the West Bank and in the first weeks of Israel’s new government, its most right-wing ever, which has promised to take a tough stance against the Palestinians.
The Israeli military said it was operating in the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp to apprehend the suspects behind a failed shooting attack last month at a West Bank restaurant, where attackers allegedly were thwarted by a weapon malfunction. The attackers then fled the scene, the military said, adding that they were members of the Hamas militant group that rules the Gaza Strip and has elements in the West Bank as well.
The military said it was searching Monday for the militant cell behind the shooting that it said had sealed itself inside a home in the refugee camp. During the search, troops encountered gunmen and a gunbattle erupted. The military said several of the gunmen who were killed were involved in the attempted attack on the restaurant.
“The new Israeli government is continuing its series of crimes against our Palestinian people,” a statement from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office said.
Jihad Abu Al-Assal, the governor of Jericho and the Jordan Valley, said the military was still holding on to the gunmen’s bodies. Without access to the bodies, the Palestinian Health Ministry did not immediately confirm the deaths, saying only that three were injured, one of them critically.
Speaking at an event at the site of a recent deadly Palestinian shooting attack, Netanyahu confirmed earlier reports by Israeli security officials that five gunmen were killed.
Hamas said all five of those killed were members of its armed wing. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said the violence would be met with a response.
“Our people and their resistance will not delay in responding to this crime,” he said.
The raid comes days after an earlier incursion in the Aqabat Jabr camp, which is near the Palestinian city of Jericho, a desert oasis in an area of the West Bank that rarely sees such unrest, where troops were also searching for the suspects.
Since the shooting at the nearby settlement, the Israeli military has blocked access to several roads into Jericho — a closure that has placed the city under a semi-blockade, disrupting business and creating hourslong bottlenecks at checkpoints that affected even Palestinian security forces, footage showed.
Monday’s violence comes days after an Israeli military raid on the Jenin refugee camp killed 10 Palestinians, mostly militants but also a 61-year-old woman. The next day, a Palestinian shooting attack outside an east Jerusalem synagogue killed seven people, including a 14-year-old.
The Israeli army has ramped up near-nightly raids in the occupied West Bank since a series of deadly Palestinian attacks within Israel last spring. Over the last year of escalating raids, Jericho has remained a sort of sleepy desert town, spared much of the violence.
The Palestinian Authority, in retaliation for last week’s raid into the Jenin refugee camp, declared a halt to security coordination with Israel.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed last year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, making it the deadliest year in those areas since 2004, according to figures by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Since the start of this year, 41 Palestinians have been killed in those territories. Some 30 people were killed in Israel by Palestinians in 2022.
The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.
Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent.


Turkiye's embassy in Saudi Arabia urges public to avoid spreading misinformation following massive quake

Turkiye's embassy in Saudi Arabia urges public to avoid spreading misinformation following massive quake
Updated 06 February 2023

Turkiye's embassy in Saudi Arabia urges public to avoid spreading misinformation following massive quake

Turkiye's embassy in Saudi Arabia urges public to avoid spreading misinformation following massive quake
  • Rescue operations are underway in both countries as emergency workers look for survivors under the rubble

DUBAI: Turkiye’s embassy in Saudi Arabia has urged the public to avoid spreading misleading information about today’s massive 7.4 magnitude earthquake which devastated parts of the country and neighboring northern Syria, claiming hundreds of lives. 

“It is very important for accurate information to be circulated and disinformation to be fought against,” The Turkish embassy said in a statement to Arab News. 

The embassy also wrote that all rescue work was being coordinated with the country’s national disaster and emergency management agency, AFAD. 

The earthquake, which struck various parts of south-east Turkiye and northern Syria, led to aftershocks felt as far away as Cairo, according to reports. 

The overall death toll from the powerful earthquake rose to at least 360 after health officials in Syria reported 237 deaths in the capital Damascus. 

Rescue operations are underway in both countries as emergency workers look for survivors under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

Related


Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid - army statement

Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid - army statement
Updated 06 February 2023

Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid - army statement

Israeli forces kill several armed militants in raid - army statement
  • The Palestinian health ministry said three people had been wounded
  • Israeli forces have carried out months of raids in the West Bank in the wake of a spate of deadly attacks in Israel last year

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces killed a number of armed fighters on Monday during a raid on a refugee camp near the occupied West Bank city of Jericho aimed at capturing suspected Hamas militants, the Israeli military said in a statement.
Five people were killed, governor of Jericho Jihad Abu Al-Assal said, in the raid in Aqbat Jabr refugee camp in southern Jericho and eight were arrested, according to a statement published by official Palestinian news agency WAFA.
The Palestinian health ministry said three people had been wounded, one critically, but gave no details on any dead.
Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, appeared to confirm some fatalities in a statement praising the gunmen as “martyred heroes.”
The raid came during a period of heightened tensions that have drawn fears of a further escalation in violence and prompted calls for calm on both sides from the United States and international bodies including the United Nations.
Israeli forces have carried out months of raids in the West Bank following a spate of deadly attacks in Israel last year and forces have been put on high alert after a Palestinian gunman shot seven people dead near a synagogue on Jan. 27.
The military said Monday’s raid was aimed at capturing a group of militants belonging to Hamas, who it said were barricaded in a house in the camp and were planning further operations following an attempted shooting attack last month on Israelis nearby.
On Jan. 28, it said two armed individuals appeared in a restaurant in the Vered Yeriho settlement, where around 30 people were present, but fled before carrying out an attack after a weapon malfunctioned.
Over the past week, it said security forces had conducted a number of operations to try to find and arrest the suspects.
Ahead of discussions in Cairo with Egyptian officials hoping to prevent further escalation, Haniyeh indicated the raid could impact the talks.