'Desert Falcons' hackers plunder Middle East's cyber treasures

“Stolen files include diplomatic communications from embassies, military plans and documents, financial documents, VIP and Media contact lists and files.”

February 21, 2015 03:52
1 minute read.
Cyber hackers [illustrative]

Cyber hackers [illustrative]. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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A group of approximately thirty operatives spear-heading the first Arabic language group dedicated to stealing vital intelligence information using malware and other methods, has been discovered by researchers from Kaspersky Lab.

Based primarily out of the Palestinian territories, Egypt and Turkey, the advanced persistent group, or "APT", dubbed Desert Falcons, develop original malware software used to carry out and conceal their efforts, which are aimed at sensitive information on traditional and mobile operating systems and whose owners are then subjected to extortion attempts and blackmail.

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“More than 1 million files were stolen from victims,” the anti-malware firm reported.

It is not yet clear if the hackers are sponsored by any one state, group or even have an ideological motive.

While the targets of these efforts included civilian bodies such as educational, economic and financial institutions as well as media groups and private individuals, military and government organizations were also caught in the Desert Falcons' cross-hairs. 

“Stolen files include diplomatic communications from embassies, military plans and documents, financial documents, VIP and Media contact lists and files.”

So far the list of victims has hovered at about 3000, spans 50 different countries, the majority of which come from the home countries of the hacking suspects, but extends to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Morocco, Qatar and even the US.

The group has been active from as early as 2011, but has only began operating at a notable pace and clocking major victories in the last two years.

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