US intelligence officials believe Russian Hackers are behind the Qatar hack

Pierluigi Paganini June 08, 2017

US intelligence officials believe Russi-linked hackers are behind the Qatar hack and used false news to prompt a diplomatic crisis in the Gulf area.

Russian hackers have planted false story news raised the crisis in the Gulf among Qatar and other states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain that cut ties to the country.

According to the US security agencies, Russian hackers were behind the intrusion  reported by the Qatari government two weeks ago,

“The alleged involvement of Russian hackers intensifies concerns by US intelligence and law enforcement agencies that Russia continues to try some of the same cyber-hacking measures on US allies that intelligence agencies believe it used to meddle in the 2016 elections.” states the CNN.

The Gulf States accuses Qatar of supporting extremist groups, but the Qatari government denied any allegations.

Qatar asked for a help to US, a team of FBI experts went in the country in late May to find evidence of the attack and determine the author.

“Sheikh Saif Bin Ahmed Al-Thani, director of the Qatari Government Communications Office, confirmed that Qatar’s Ministry of Interior is working with the FBI and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency on the ongoing hacking investigation of the Qatar News Agency.” reported the CNN.

The crisis escalated after the so-called Qatar hack, cyber attacks hit the the Qatar’s state-run news agency.  Qatar faced an unprecedented security breach, unknown attackers posted fake news stories attributed to its ruler on highly sensitive regional political issues.

Qatar hack - news agency hacked

The hackers hit the Qatar official news agency website and Twitter account causing serious problems to the country.

Hackers shared fake content supposedly addressed by Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, tensions with the Trump’s administration, strategic relations with Iran, and comments about Hamas.

“The Qatar News Agency website has been hacked by an unknown entity,” reported the Communications Office in a statement.

“A false statement attributed to His Highness has been published.”

Hackers also published on the hijacked Twitter account a fake story in Arabic apparently from the country’s foreign minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, about Qatar withdrawing its ambassadors from several countries in other East Gulf states.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told CNN that the FBI experts confirmed the hack and the spreading of fake news via the hacker social media account.

“Whatever has been thrown as an accusation is all based on misinformation and we think that the entire crisis being based on misinformation,” he told CNN.

“Because it was started based on fabricated news, being wedged and being inserted in our national news agency which was hacked and proved by the FBI” 

“The Ministry of Interior will reveal the findings of the investigation when completed,” he told CNN.

Despite Qatar is considered a good ally for the US due to its support to US military in the area, Trump do not exclude that state was funding extremism.

In the following tweet, Trump expressed its approval for the regional blockade in the effort of stopping terrorist funding.

After Trump’s tweets, the US State Department announced that Qatar had made significant progress on stemming the funding of terrorists but that there was more to do.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – Gulf crisis, intelligence)

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