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Middle East cyber spy network affecting 50 countries uncovered --- Kaspersky Lab

The first Arabic cyber spy network has been uncovered that targeted strategic organizations in the Middle East and also Russian agencies, Kaspersky Lab, a Russian producer of software security programs, said on Wednesday.

"Most victims of the operation, called Desert Falcons, were registered in Egypt, Palestine, Israel and Jordan, but many of those affected are also in other countries, including Russia," said the press service of the Moscow-headquartered company, which operates in almost 200 countries worldwide.

"In total, Arab cyber mercenaries have attacked more than 3,000 users in over 50 countries and stolen more than one million files," it said.

The network infiltrated computers belonging to government bodies, including to employees who are responsible for preventing money-laundering and are in charge of healthcare and economic development.

The targets of the cyber spies were also military agencies, leading mass media outlets, research and education institutions, energy companies and public utilities, as well as activists, political leaders, security agencies and a range of other organizations that have access to important geopolitical information.

Russian anti-virus experts estimate that the Desert Falcons cyber spy campaign has been carried out for at least two years but its activities peaked in early 2015. The attacks are believed to have been conducted by hackers of an Arab origin.

The cyber criminals sent messages to their potential victims with malicious attachments or links via e-mail, social networks and chats. When the victim's computer was infected, the hackers made screenshots and gathered information about all the files.

"We believe that the Desert Falcons operation will develop further and its organizers will improve their methods and tools," the Kaspersky Lab experts have warned.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 18Feb15]

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Privacy and counterintelligence
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