Browsing 'cybercrime' News

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Five people suspected of hacking Qatar’s official state news agency have recently been detained in Turkey, authorities have announced.

Speaking to QNA, Attorney General Dr. Ali bin Fetais al Marri said:

“Our friends in Turkey answered us a short time ago. Five people were arrested and they are being investigated. The prosecutors in Qatar are working with the Turkish authorities to follow this case.”

The hack took place in May. At the time, QNA published fake news attributed to Qatar’s Emir, including offensive remarks about the country’s neighbors.

This kicked off a months-long Gulf dispute that still shows no signs of abating.

UAE’s involvement

No details were provided about the detainees’ nationalities or backgrounds.

But last month, the Ministry of Interior said that the cyberattack originated from the UAE.

One captain added at the time that the hack “was so professional that it had to have ‘state resources’ behind it.”

US intelligence officials also supported this claim, though the UAE has denied it.

Thoughts?

Ray Toh/Flickr

Ministry of Interior headquarters

The cyber attack on Qatar that kicked off the Gulf dispute had been carefully planned and executed over a several-week period, officials have announced.

On May 23, Qatar News Agency (QNA) and its social media sites posted offensive remarks attributed to the Emir, infuriating the country’s neighbors.

But QNA had actually been infiltrated more than a month before the attack, authorities said during a press conference yesterday.

Officials stopped short of naming who it held responsible for the hacking, mostly referring to IP addresses from “siege countries.”

But they did say that the attack “originated in the UAE.”

And Al Jazeera quotes the MOI’s Capt. Othman Salem al-Hamoud as saying the hack “was so professional that it had to have ‘state resources’ behind it.”

Days ago, US intelligence officials also pointed the finger at the UAE, though the country itself has denied any involvement.

What happened

A hacker first gained access to QNA’s website on April 19, officials said.

He then “started increasing his control of the network by deploying more sophisticated malware programs.”

On April 28, he collected addresses, passwords and emails of all employees.

And on May 20, he carried out a final check of “malicious programs, confirming effectiveness in preparation for an attack,” MOI officials said.

The hackers “used innovative methods to hide their identity.”

But “technical evidence” confirmed interactions with people whose IP addresses originated from “siege countries,” they added.

Next steps

When the cyberattack took place, Qatari officials immediately dismissed the posted remarks as false.

But neighboring countries doubted that Qatar had been hacked in the first place and took the statements at face value.

The fallout led to Al Jazeera being blocked in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

And less than two weeks later, those countries, as well as Bahrain and Egypt, announced a boycott against Qatar.

The move was to pressure Qatar to fall into line with GCC politics. But the country has so far refused to do so.

The quartet has since toned down its demands, and it remains unclear what will happen next in terms of the Gulf dispute.

As far the attack, Qatar said it will move ahead with legal measures to prosecute the perpetrators of the crime.

Thoughts?

QNA

Qatar’s Emir at Wednesday’s military graduation ceremony

Officials in Qatar have launched an investigation into this week’s hacking of its official news agency.

QNA published false reports attributed to the Emir and Foreign Minister on Wednesday night.

The remarks expressed support for Israel and Iran and criticized key Qatar allies such as Saudi Arabia and the US.

Abraham Puthoor/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Officials in Doha have denied the veracity of all the statements. They also temporarily suspended QNA’s online services as a precautionary measure.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the attack a “shameful cybercrime” that “was instigated and perpetrated with malicious intent.”

It added in a statement that the government is working to track down and prosecute whoever was behind the breach, which caused widespread confusion in the GCC due to the inflammatory nature of the comments.

Political fallout

Many took the remarks at face value, and there have been heated debates on social media about them.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia even temporarily blocked digital access to Al Jazeera inside their countries, the network confirmed.

Qatar has been trying to contain the political fallout of the false reports.

But yesterday, officials said they were “surprised” that some media outlets continue to publish and comment on the fake news, even though the country called them baseless.

Some are saying Gulf tensions have not been this high since 2014. At that time, Saudi, the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Doha for political reasons.

The issue was eventually resolved, and fences have been on the mend since then.

Security

Politics aside, many security experts are urging Qatar to boost security to protect against future attacks.

In a statement to Doha News, Donna Mayers, senior associate at law firm Pinsent Masons Qatar, said “more needs to be done” in this regard across the GCC, despite shrinking budgets.

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Photo for illustrative purposes only.

She added:

“Cybercrime poses an increasing threat, not only to individual businesses but also to a country’s national security and critical infrastructure in sectors such as energy, banking, health and ICT.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but we urge companies to prepare for the worst-case scenario by implementing processes and plans to deal with this and using simulated attacks to educate and prepare their workforce.”

Thoughts?