Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Qatar, Iran cyberattacks against Bahrain revealed

Tuesday 21/May/2019 - 01:55 PM
Ali Ragab

Iran continues to target international and regional institutions in several Western and Arab countries, especially Gulf countries, by launching cyberattacks, as revealed by the Bahraini Ministry of Interior.

A statement by the Bahraini ministry has affirmed detecting networks to stir up sedition within the kingdom.

A number of accounts on social media websites were monitored as they were attempting to threaten the stability and social fabric within the kingdom of Bahrain. These accounts were tracked to reveal their true locations in Iran, Qatar, Iraq and European countries.

According to the ministry, these accounts have launched a plan to discredit the reputation of Bahrain and its people, and spread the spirit of discord and division among the society.

Promoting malicious messages

The Bahraini authorities monitored the behavior of certain accounts and tracked their IP addresses and locations. Some accounts belong to fugitives like Yousif Almuhafdah and Hussein Al-Sutri who currently reside in Germany and Australia.

Most of the accounts were tracked to Iran, Iraq, Qatar and a number of European countries like France, Germany and Australia.

The statement further stressed that all the necessary legal procedures will be taken against violators who promote sedition and rumors across the internet.

The Bahraini Ministry of the Interior also urged all citizens and users of social media sites to exercise caution and refrain from sharing such fake news and malicious articles, which harms the security and civil peace of the kingdom.

The dissemination of false news through the Iranian Cyber Army is one of Tehran’s tools to target Arab countries, especially in the Gulf.

Iran and Cyberattacks

In 2013, a general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards stated that Iran had "the 4th biggest cyber power among the world’s cyber armies.”

According to Tehran Bureau, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard initiated plans for the formation of an Iranian Cyber Army, which is an Iranian computer hacker group, in 2005. The group has claimed responsibility for several attacks conducted over the Internet since 2009.

An ambitious online disinformation campaign that impersonated major media outlets, used fake Twitter accounts to spread false articles, and targeted real journalists is likely linked to Iran, Buzzfeed News cited researchers who tracked it for close to two years.

Since early 2016, the operation published 135 fabricated articles on websites designed to mimic outlets such as the Guardian, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, the Independent, the Atlantic, and Politico.

The US government last March charged nine Iranian hackers with a massive three-year campaign to penetrate and steal more than 31 terabytes of information—totaling more than $3 billion in intellectual property—from more than 300 American and foreign universities.

The effort netted a lengthy list of victims, including 144 universities based in the US, and another 176 spread across 21 foreign countries. The group also hit 47 private sector companies, government targets as varied as the US Department of Labor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the states of Hawaii and Indiana, along with the United Nations.

Moreover, Monica Witt, a former US air force intelligence officer who defected to Iran in 2013 has been charged with espionage, giving away the identity of a US agent and other secrets to Tehran.

Iranian affairs expert Hisham al-Baqali said that the statement by the Bahraini ministry reveals Iran’s terror and schemes in targeting Bahrain.

Baqali added in an interview with The Reference that Iran’s cyberterrorism relies on “electronic flies”, which are basically thousands of fake accounts on social media that targets the destabilization of Arab countries.

He further pointed out that the report also reveals cooperation and coordination between Iran and Qatar in targeting Manama through cyberattacks, the matter which requires a solid stand against cyberterrorism, because social media websites turned into tools in the hands of evil countries and terrorist groups.