Cyberattacks against Saudi Arabia continue

Researchers at US antivirus firm McAfee say the cyberattacks that have hit Saudi Arabia over the past few months are continuing, revealing new details about an unusually disruptive campaign.

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Speaking ahead of the blog post’s publication on Wednesday, McAfee chief scientists Raj Samani said the latest intrusions were very similar, albeit even worse, to the malicious software that wrecked computers at Saudi Arabia’s state-run oil company in 2012.

“This campaign was a lot bigger,” Samani said. “Way larger in terms of the amount of work that needed to be done.”

It’s a striking claim. The 2012 intrusions against Saudi Aramco and Qatari natural gas company RasGas – data-wiping attacks that wrecked tens of thousands of computers – were among the most serious cyberattacks ever publicly revealed.

At the time, the United States called it “the most destructive attack that the private sector has seen to date”.

Echoing research done by others, McAfee said the most recent wave of attacks drew heavily on the malicious code used in the 2012 intrusions.

McAfee also said that some of the code appears to have been borrowed by a previously known hacking group, Rocket Kitten, and used digital infrastructure also employed in a cyberespionage campaign dubbed OilRig.

US cybersecurity firms have tied both to Iran, with greater or lesser degrees of certainty.

McAfee stopped short of linking any particular actor to the most recent attacks.

Saudi officials and news media have given little detail about the intrusions beyond saying that more than a dozen government agencies and companies were affected, and a government adviser did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The Iranian embassy in Paris did not immediately return messages.

Cameron issues challenge to GWS forwards

Greater Western Sydney coach Leon Cameron has challenged his forwards to prevent the Western Bulldogs speedy backs from carving his side up in Friday’s AFL clash in Canberra.

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Meeting for the first time since the Bulldogs won a classic preliminary final showdown in Sydney last year, both teams are off to a 4-1 start.

Cameron said the Bulldogs had found a way to win games despite not playing their best and still rated them the form side in the competition.

He identified contested ball and stoppages as the two areas the Bulldogs clearly beat them in during that finals clash and expected those to be key factors again in his side’s first-ever Friday game.

“That was probably the two big areas that they not just beat us, they gave us a real touch-up,” Cameron said.

“It will be be contested ball, stoppages and who moves the ball better from the half-back line probably wins the game.”

For Cameron that means nullifying the dash of Jason Johannisen, Bob Murphy, Matthew Boyd and Matthew Suckling.

“If we’re not consistently good at stopping the ball rebounding out of our front half this week then they will absolutely carve us up,” Cameron said.

‘They’ve got leg speed, they’ve got ball use, they’ve got decision makers that can do anything and then they can kick a score.

‘Guys like (forwards Jon) Patton, and (Rory) Lobb and (Jeremy) Cameron and (Steve) Johnson and (Toby) Greene and (Sam) Reid have got to make sure that the pressure is right on them.”

Cameron pointed out GWS had some in-form flankers of their own in Zac Williams, Nathan Wilson, Heath Shaw and Adam Kennedy.

Meanwhile, former Bulldog Cameron is looking forward to getting some of his midfielders back over the next couple of weeks.

He expects Stephen Coniglio to return from injury next week, while Lachie Whitfield will be back from suspension the following round.

Off-season recruit Matt de Boer has got the all-clear following a hamstring injury, but is recovering from a poke in the eye he copped in the reserves last week.

US mulls stronger defence against N.Korea

The top US commander in the Pacific has told Congress the US may need to strengthen its missile defences, particularly in Hawaii, given the advancing threat from North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.

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Just before the entire US Senate receives a top-level White House briefing, Admiral Harry Harris said on Wednesday he believed Pyongyang’s threats needed to be taken seriously.

Earlier, the US military moved parts of an anti-missile defence system to a deployment site in South Korea, triggering protests from villagers and by China – whose help is vital to agreeing and implementing tougher economic sanctions to try to persuade North Korea to abandon its weapons programs.

North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting US President Donald Trump. He has vowed to prevent North Korea from hitting the US with a nuclear missile.

Harris told lawmakers the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system would be operational “in coming days”.

He said the defences of Hawaii were sufficient for now but could one day be overwhelmed, and suggested studying stationing new radar there as well as interceptors to knock out any incoming North Korean missiles.

“I don’t share your confidence that North Korea is not going to attack either South Korea, or Japan, or the US … once they have the capability,” Harris said.

Washington has said all options are on the table, including military strikes, but officials have stressed that the current focus is on stepped-up sanctions on North Korea, which are expected to be discussed at a UN Security Council meeting on Friday chaired by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Harris conceded that North Korean retaliation to any US strikes could cause many casualties in South Korea, but added that there was the risk “of a lot more Koreans and Japanese and Americans dying if North Korea achieves its nuclear aims and does what (North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) has said it’s going to do”.

North Korea has vowed to strike the US and its Asian allies at the first sign of any attack on its territory.

In a show of force, the US is sending the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula, where it will join the USS Michigan, a nuclear submarine that docked in South Korea on Tuesday. South Korea’s navy has said it will hold drills with the US strike group.

The earlier-than-expected steps to deploy the missile defence system were denounced both by China, where the foreign ministry vowed Beijing would “resolutely take necessary steps to defend its interests”.

But Harris, said he’s encouraged by signals from China that it would help address North Korea’s threatening behaviour, but cautions “it’s early days”.

“I’m encouraged. And I believe Kim Jong Un has noticed that there’s a change afoot with regard to China, and I think that’s important,” Harris said.

North Korea’s foreign ministry called US attempts to make Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons through military threats and sanctions “a wild dream” and like “sweeping the sea with a broom”.

‘Signature of the regime’: France claims Syria chemical attack proof

Samples obtained by French intelligence show that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “undoubtedly” used sarin nerve gas in an April 4 attack in northern Syria, France’s foreign minister says, citing a declassified report.

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The attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun killed scores of people and prompted the United States to launch a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base in response, its first direct assault on the Assad government in the conflict.

“We know, from a certain source, that the process of fabrication of the samples taken is typical of the method developed in Syrian laboratories,” Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters.

“This method is the signature of the regime and it is what enables us to establish the responsibility of the attack. We know because we kept samples from previous attacks that we were able to use for comparison.”

The six-page report – drawn up by France’s military and foreign intelligence services and seen by Reuters – said it was able to reach its conclusion based on samples they had obtained from the impact strike on the ground, and a blood sample from a victim.

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Among the elements found in the samples were hexamine, a hallmark of sarin produced by the Syrian government.

“The French intelligence services consider that only Bashar al-Assad and some of his most influential entourage can give the order to use chemical weapons,” the report said.

It added that jihadist groups in the area did not have the capacity to develop and launch such an attack and that Islamic State was not in the region.

Assad’s claim to AFP news agency on April 13 that the attack was fabricated, was “not credible” given the mass flows of casualties in a short space of time arriving in Syrian and Turkish hospitals as well as the sheer quantity of online activity showing people with neurotoxic symptoms, the report said.

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Smith upstaged as Kolkata sweep Pune aside

An unbeaten half-century to Australia skipper Steve Smith wasn’t enough to stop Kolkata Knight Riders joining Mumbai at the top of the Indian Premier League standings.

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Robin Uthappa struck an inspired 87 and captain Gautam Gambhir added 62 as two-time champions Kolkata swept to a seven-wicket victory over Smith’s Rising Pune Supergiants.

An unbeaten 51 by Smith helped Supergiant reach a solid total of 5-182, only for Uthappa and Gambhir to guide Knight Riders to 3-184 and a win that took them to the top of the table.

Uthappa hammered seven boundaries and six sixes in his 47-ball knock, which followed an impressive display behind the stumps by the wicketkeeper-batsman.

Smith’s knock, which included four boundaries and a six from 37 balls, was his team’s standout performance after opener Ajinkya Rahane had made a bright start with 46 from 41 deliveries before being stumped by Uthappa.

Fellow Australian Dan Christian smacked two consecutive sixes off Chris Woakes at the end of an 19th over that yielded 18 runs, with 12 more being plundered off the final over. The last ball of the innings saw Christian’s attempted big hit providing a simple catch at deep mid-wicket for Manish Pandey off a full toss from Umesh Yadav.

In reply, Knight Riders lost Narine (16) to a runout that left his team on 20-1, but any nerves were very soon steadied.

Uthappa slashed a four and two sixes from Washington Sundar’s first three balls of the eighth over, along with two consecutive sixes off Imran Tahir in the 16th.

He was dismissed in the following over, just five runs short of the victory target.

Looking for a six to finish the game in style, his effort came up short and provided an easy catch for Tripathi off a Jaydev Unadkat delivery. Gambhir was out the next over, an easy catch for Shardul Thakur after an awkward shot off the bowling of Christian.

Darren Bravo and Pandey finished off the Knight Riders innings, with the West Indies batsman drilling a four through the covers to wrap up the win.