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Twitter hacking spree sets off alarm bells

Ariana News

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(Last Updated On: July 16, 2020)

The extraordinary hacking spree that hit Twitter on Wednesday, leading it to briefly muzzle some of its most widely followed accounts, is drawing questions about the platform’s security and resilience in the run-up to the US presidential election.

Twitter said late Wednesday hackers obtained control of employee credentials to hijack accounts including those of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, former president Barack Obama, reality television star Kim Kardashian, and tech billionaire and Tesla founder Elon Musk.

In a series of tweets, the company said: “We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools.”

The hackers then “used this access to take control of many highly-visible (including verified) accounts and Tweet on their behalf.”

The company statements confirmed the fears of security experts that the service itself – rather than users – had been compromised.

Twitter’s role as a critical communications platform for political candidates and public officials, including President Donald Trump, has led to fears that hackers could wreak havoc with the November 3 presidential election or otherwise compromise national security.

Adam Conner, vice president for technology policy at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think-tank, said on Twitter: “This is bad on July 15 but would be infinitely worse on November 3rd.”

Posing as celebrities and the wealthy, the hackers asked followers to send the digital currency bitcoin to a series of addresses.

By evening, 400 bitcoin transfers were made worth a combined US$120,000. Half of the victims had funds in US bitcoin exchanges, a quarter in Europe and a quarter in Asia, according to forensics company Elliptic.

Those transfers left history that could help investigators identify the perpetrators of the hack. The financial damage may be limited because multiple exchanges blocked other payments after their own Twitter accounts were targeted.

The damage to Twitter’s reputation may be more serious. Most troubling to some was how long the company took to stop the bad tweets.

“Twitter’s response to this hack was astonishing. It’s the middle of the day in San Francisco, and it takes them five hours to get a handle on the incident,” said Dan Guido, CEO of security company Trail of Bits.

An even worse scenario was that the bitcoin fraud was a distraction for more serious hacking, such as harvesting the direct messages of the account holders.

Twitter said it was not yet certain what the hackers may have done beyond sending the bitcoin messages.

“We’re looking into what other malicious activity they may have conducted or information they may have accessed and will share more here as we have it,” the company said.

Mass compromises of Twitter accounts via theft of employee credentials or problems with third-party applications that many users employ have occurred before.

Wednesday’s hack was the worst to date. Several users with two-factor authentication – a security procedure that helps prevent break-in attempts – said they were powerless to stop it.

“If the hackers do have access to the backend of Twitter, or direct database access, there is nothing potentially stopping them from pilfering data in addition to using this tweet-scam as a distraction,” said Michael Borohovski, director of software engineering at security company Synopsys.

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Hundreds of prisoners rounded up as Jalalabad prison attack continues

Ariana News

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

Almost eighteen hours into the Jalalabad prison attack, Afghan security forces are still trying to bring the situation under control and round up escaped prisoners. 

Officials have said that hundreds of prisoners who escaped during the attack have since been caught. 

Some prisoners who have been arrested told Ariana News that six attackers entered the prison and ordered them to leave. The prisoners were told that if they did not leave they would be killed by the assailants. 

A security source said that the prisoners who escaped include Taliban members, Daesh militants, and criminals.

The attack started just after 6.30 pm on Sunday night and has continued through the night and Monday morning. 

Daesh, which claimed responsibility, detonated a car bomb outside the prison on Sunday evening, blowing the gate open. Militants then stormed the facility.

In the ensuing gun battle, hundreds of prisoners escaped. 

It is believed, however, that Daesh militants took control of two prison towers earlier and that some prisoners have taken up arms and are fighting alongside the attackers. However, there has been no official confirmation of these reports. 

Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, meanwhile said the death toll has risen to 21 and 43 wounded. 

He said the victims include prisoners, security forces, and civilians. 

Zahir Adil, a spokesman for the provincial health directorate, told Ariana News that 13 of those wounded are in a critical condition. 

This attack started just a day after Afghanistan’s intelligence services announced the Afghan special forces had killed a high-ranking Daesh member in an operation in eastern Afghanistan.

A statement late Saturday by the National Directorate of Security said the slain militant was Assadullah Orakzai, an intelligence leader for the IS affiliate (Daesh) in Afghanistan. The statement said he was killed near Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. IS has its headquarters in the province.

Orakzai was suspected of being involved in several deadly attacks against both military and civilian targets in Afghanistan.

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Iran arrests pro-Taliban Afghans who waved group’s flag in park

Ariana News

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

Iranian authorities have arrested a group of Afghans who waved a flag in celebration of Eid al-Adha in a park in Tehran.

MENAFM reported that Iranian intelligence and police officials confirmed to local media outlets that the security forces arrested the group during an operation.

The officials also said that the individuals were arrested in connection with the publication of the pictures of the Taliban flag which they had taken in Mellat Park in Tehran.

The suspects are in police custody and an investigation is underway, officials told MENAFM.

The Iranian authorities reportedly acted to detain the Taliban supporters after the images shocked Iranians on social media.

This move comes after comments were made recently by some of Afghanistan’s Western allies that Iran was not doing enough to support the peace process.

However, Iran has been quick to reject these claims. 

On Saturday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani described peace in Afghanistan as peace and stability for the entire region.

He told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in a telephone conversation that Iran had always stood by the people and government of Afghanistan with regards to peace and stability. 

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to always deepen relations with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan based on historical and cultural common grounds and strengthening these relations by taking advantage of economic, trade and transit capacity between the two countries,” he said.

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UAE to host IPL 2020 as tournament gets provisional green light

Ariana News

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

Cricket fans around the world will be glad to hear that the ever-popular IPL tournament is back on track for this year after having been suspended in April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Indian Premier League Governing Council (IPL GC) met via video-conference on Sunday to discuss the issue and decided to go ahead with the tournament, starting in September. 

However, matches will not be held in India this year and will instead be played in the United Arab Emirates – in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. 

According to the IPL GC, they still need final clearance from the Indian government for the tournament to take place. 

VIVO IPL 2020 will be played from September 19 and the final will be played on  November 10. 

The 53-day tournament will witness afternoon and evening matches.

The Governing Council also discussed the comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which will be finalised and published in due course, including the agencies to execute and deliver a bio-secure environment for safe and successful Sponsors and all the Stakeholders acknowledge that the IPL 2020 season will only commence when it is safe and appropriate to do so. 

BCCI will continue to monitor and review the situation regarding a potential start date in close partnership with all of its stakeholders and will continue to take guidance from the Government of India, State Governments and other State Regulatory bodies.

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