Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Iran's gas shortage blamed on hackers

The Jerusalem  Post:

Gas stations across Iran malfunctioned on Tuesday, reportedly due to a massive cyberattack, according to Iranian state media.

With the details still hazy, speculation is rife about whether the purported attack came from the US, Israel or from local Iranian anti-regime groups.

According to reports, messages were posted in some systems that were hacked, addressing Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly and demanding to know, “Where is the gas?” The attack comes some two years after nationwide protests over gas shortages in fall 2019.

“The disruption at the refueling system of gas stations... in the past few hours, was caused by a cyberattack,” state broadcaster IRIB said. “Technical experts are fixing the problem and soon the refueling process... will return to normal.”

The Oil Ministry said only sales with smart cards used for cheaper, rationed gasoline were disrupted and that clients could still buy fuel at higher rates, the ministry’s news agency, SHANA, reported.
Last week, Iran carried out a complex and coordinated strike on US forces in Syria using up to five armed drones to attack the Tanf garrison at a key strategic point near the Jordan-Iraq border.

The attack was the latest in a series of drone strikes on US forces.

In a press briefing on Monday, US Envoy on Iran, Rob Malley, mentioned possible upcoming US action to deter Iranian aggression in the region although he declined to elaborate what those actions might be.

The US is considered to be the world’s most potent cyber power by far but it has often been hesitant to use its offensive cyber capabilities against groups other than ISIS, for fear of cyber retaliation.

Under the Trump administration, the US did hack certain major Iranian intelligence sea-based operations to get the Islamic Republic to back away from attacking American allies at sea.

But the Biden administration has not done so to date, as it has focused on building goodwill for a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA.

Israel reportedly hacked Iran’s Shahid Rajaee Port on May 9, 2020, as a counter strike for an attempted Iranian cyber strike on Israel’s water supply system the previous month.

Iran has also accused the Mossad, the US and European intelligence agencies of using the STUXNET virus to hack its Natanz nuclear facility in 2009-2010.

Former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) cyber official Harel Menashri told KAN radio that there was a good chance that to accomplish such a broad and successful attack on Tuesday, the hacker would have to be a nation-state actor.

However, recent months have also shown that amateur hackers can cause major disruption to the US and European powers with sophisticated ransomware and other means, and the Khamenei regime has many local enemies among Iran’s many minorities.

In August, Check Point Software Technologies issued a report stating that an Iranian dissident group called Indra, not Israel, executed the mega-hack on the Islamic Republic’s train system on July 9.

Check Point said Indra’s hack was “an example for governments around the world of how a single group can create disruption on critical infrastructure.”

If non-state groups are traditionally thought of as lacking the capability to do more than hack websites and data, this was an example of such a non-state group causing profound real-world damage.

Indra’s tools destroyed data without direct means to recover it by using a “wiper,” or malware designed to wipe the entire data system of critical infrastructure, making the recovery process complicated, locking users out of machines, changing passwords, and replacing wallpapers to custom messages crafted by the attackers.

The hack included the posting of fake messages about train delays and cancellations on display boards across Iran.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Monday, October 25, 2021

US airstrike kills senior al Qaeda leader

A U.S. airstrike in Syria killed a senior leader of al Qaeda Friday, according to U.S. Central Command. 

The strike — carried out by an MQ-9 aircraft — took out Abdul Hamid al-Matar, according to a U.S. Central Command spokesman Army Major John Rigsbee. 

"The removal of this al Qaeda senior leader will disrupt the terrorist organization's ability to further plot and carry out global attacks threatening U.S. citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians," Rigsbee said in a statement. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

FBI confirms human remains are Brian Laundrie

 On October 21, 2021, a comparison of dental records confirmed that the human remains found at the T. Mabry Carlton, Jr. Memorial Reserve and Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park are those of Brian Laundrie.

This is a breaking news update. A previous version of this report is below.

The apparent human remains that authorities found Wednesday in a Florida park most likely belong to Brian Laundrie, the missing man whose fiancĂ©e Gabby Petito was found fatally strangled last month, the Laundrie family attorney told CNN.

Investigators also found a backpack and a notebook belonging to Laundrie, 23, near the suspected remains while they were searching the Carlton Reserve in North Port, according to FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael McPherson.

The discovery came on Wednesday morning when Laundrie's parents and law enforcement searched an area of the reserve that had been underwater but recently reopened to the public. The remains and items were found in the same area that the parents had initially told the FBI to look, family attorney Steven Bertolino told CNN's Chris Cuomo.

U.S. conducted 3 Hypersonic weapon tests in one day one failed.

WASHINGTON, WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) - The Pentagon's hypersonic weapon programs suffered a setback on Thursday when a booster rocket carrying a hypersonic weapon failed, people briefed on the test result said.

The test was intended to validate aspects of one of the Pentagon's hypersonic glide vehicles in development, two of the people said.

The tests occurred the same day that U.S. President Joe Biden said he was concerned about Chinese hypersonic weapons. read more

The Sandia National Laboratory ran the tests from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia which will help "inform the development of the Navy's Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) and the Army's Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) offensive hypersonic strike," a statement said.

The Navy and Army will conduct a flight test of the common hypersonic missile in fiscal 2022, which began on Oct. 1.Hypersonic weapons travel in the upper atmosphere at more than five times the speed of sound, or about 3,853 miles per hour (6,200 kph).

These tests "demonstrated advanced hypersonic technologies, capabilities, and prototype systems in a realistic operating environment," the Pentagon said in a statement.

The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s.

Companies such as Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) and Raytheon Technologies (RTX.N) are working to develop the hypersonic weapon capability for the United States.

Reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

FBI raids two properties linked to a Russian billionaire with ties to President Vladimir Putin

The FBI is searching two properties linked to a Russian billionaire with ties to President Vladimir Putin, a spokesperson for the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, told NBC News on Tuesday.

The raids of two houses, located in Washington, D.C., and New York, “are being carried out on the basis of two court orders, connected to US sanctions,” the spokesperson told NBC.

An FBI spokeswoman earlier confirmed to CNBC that agents are conducting “court-authorized law enforcement activity” at the Washington home.

The search warrants in Washington are the result of a federal investigation stemming from New York City, two officials briefed on the matter told NBC, which first reported earlier Tuesday that Deripaska’s home was being raided by the FBI.

But Deripaska’s spokesperson said the houses do not belong to him, since he is not technically allowed to own property in the U.S. due to sanctions against him. The houses belong to Deripaska’s relatives, the spokesperson said.

In 2018, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on Deripaska and about two dozen other oligarchs and Kremlin officials tied to Putin.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, designated Deripaska “for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation,” among other allegations. In a press release, OFAC noted that Deripaska has been investigated for money laundering, threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering.

Deripaska sued over the sanctions, but a U.S. judge in June dismissed his lawsuit.

Deripaska became widely known in the U.S. for his ties to Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who was convicted on fraud charges stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Then-President Donald Trump pardoned Manafort in his final month in office.

Manafort and Deripaska had numerous business dealings. Manafort was indebted to Deripaska, court filings have alleged, and reportedly tried to leverage his role on Trump’s campaign to resolve his debts with the Russian billionaire.

The FBI and the D.C. police did not immediately respond to requests for additional information regarding Tuesday’s raid. A lawyer for Deripaska did not immediately provide comment.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

FBI tactical team standing by to rescue kidnapped American missionaries


Port-au-Prince, Haiti — Desperate efforts continued on Tuesday to save a group of missionaries, most of them Americans, being held for ransom by a criminal gang in Haiti. FBI agents were working with local authorities in the tiny Caribbean nation to find the 16 U.S. nationals and one Canadian who were kidnapped on Saturday.

The gang was asking for $1 million for each hostage — $17 million total — to release the missionaries, a high-ranking government source confirmed to CBS News. The dollar amount was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The missionaries, from an Ohio-based Christian organization, were abducted just outside the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. CBS News' Manuel Bojorquez and his team in the city were able to obtain a phone number for the leader of the "400 Mawozo" gang, which authorities believe is behind the kidnappings. CBS News dialed the number and a man picked up, but he hung up after hearing who was on the other end of the line.  

FBI tactical teams were assisting as Haitian authorities try to negotiate the missionaries' safe return.

"You're trying to do two things at the same time — maintain open lines of communication, and prepare for the worst," James Gagliano, a former special agent with the FBI's hostage rescue team, told CBS News about what was likely going on behind the scenes. 

Gagliano said that if it became clear the gang was killing or threatening to kill hostages, the U.S. law enforcement agency would likely have a strike team on hand to attempt a rescue operation.

North Korea fires missile from submarine. Calls it "the worlds most powerful weapon"


click to enlarge 


North Korea has fired a suspected submarine-launched ballistic missile into waters off the coast of Japan, South Korea's military has said.

Pyongyang unveiled the missile in January, describing it as "the world's most powerful weapon".

It comes weeks after South Korea unveiled a similar weapon of its own.

North Korea has carried out a flurry of missile tests in recent weeks, including of what it said were hypersonic and long-range weapons.

Some of these tests violate strict international sanctions.

The country is specifically prohibited by the United Nations from testing ballistic missiles as well as nuclear weapons.

Pyongyang unveiled the missile in January, describing it as "the world's most powerful weapon".

It comes weeks after South Korea unveiled a similar weapon of its own.

North Korea has carried out a flurry of missile tests in recent weeks, including of what it said were hypersonic and long-range weapons.

Some of these tests violate strict international sanctions.

The country is specifically prohibited by the United Nations from testing ballistic missiles as well as nuclear weapons.

On Tuesday South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said one missile had been launched from the port of Sinpo, in the east of North Korea where Pyongyang usually bases its submarines. It landed in the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan.

They said it was suspected to have been a submarine-launched ballistic missile.

The latest launch comes as South Korea develops its own weapons, in what observers say has turned into an arms race on the Korean peninsula.

Seoul is holding what is said to be South Korea's largest ever defence exhibition this week. It will reportedly unveil a new fighter jet as well as guided weapons like missiles. It is also due to launch its own space rocket soon.

North and South Korea technically remain at war as the Korean War, which split the peninsula into two countries and which saw the US backing the South, ended in 1953 with an armistice.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said last week that he did not wish for war to break out again. He said his country needed to continue developing weapons for self-defense against enemies, namely the US which he accused of hostility.

Monday, October 18, 2021

What the Chinese hypersonic missile means to the world ...

ID: Amid its larger push to dominate the modern-age space race, China has reportedly gone a step further in militarizing the arena as it tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile. According to Financial Times, Beijing tested the vehicle in August, which circled the globe before speeding towards its target demonstrating a unique space capability developed by the dragon.

The report late on Saturday said the Chinese military launched a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide vehicle that flew through low-orbit space, circling the globe before cruising towards its target, which it missed by about two dozen miles.

"The test showed that China had made astounding progress on hypersonic weapons and was far more advanced than US officials realised," the report said, citing people briefed on the intelligence. Quoting sources, FT reported that the weapon could, in theory, fly over the South Pole, posing a major challenge for the US military.

The speculation of the secret launch emerged from the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, which said that it had launched a Long March 2C rocket, the 77th launch in July followed by an August 24 announcement releasing details of a 79th flight, but there was no detail about the 78th launch, sparking speculations.


As countries remain focused on North Korea for its nuclear-capable missile tests, China has reportedly launched a hypersonic missile secretly. A hypersonic missile is a vehicle that achieves a speed five times faster than the speed of sound, crossing Mach 5. These missiles travel at a speed of around 6,115 km per hour, with a combination of technology and manoeuvrability of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

Hypersonic weapons can take missile warfare, particularly nuclear warfare, to a new -- and, for many, frightening -- level. According to reports, they can travel much faster than current nuclear-capable ballistic and cruise missiles at low altitudes, can switch direction in flight and do not follow a predictable arc like conventional missiles, making them much harder to track and intercept.


China, acknowledging the launch, said that it has tested a hypersonic “vehicle” and not a nuclear-capable hypersonic “missile” as was reported. Asked for his reaction to the report, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing that a test of a hypersonic vehicle was carried out.

“It is a vehicle, not a missile,” Zhao said, adding that as we understand this test, it is just a routine space vehicle test to verify the repeated use of technology of the vehicle.

“This is of great significance to reducing the cost and can also provide an affordable and cheap return means for the peaceful use of space for humanity,” he said.


China is not the first to develop hypersonic capabilities, while the country first showcased its hypersonic glide vehicle DF-17 during its national day military parade, the US had in 2020 announced a successful test of an unarmed prototype hypersonic missile. The Pentagon had said in March 2020 that a test glide vehicle flew at hypersonic speeds -- more than five times the speed of sound, or Mach 5 -- to a designated impact point.

Russia has also shown hypersonic capabilities as it declared it had placed into service its first Avangard hypersonic missile in December 2019, making it the first country to claim an operable hypersonic weapon. According to AFP, Russian officials claimed that in tests the missile had reached speeds of up to Mach 27, roughly 33,000 kilometres per hour.

The US has recognized that the hypersonic capability can catalyse the threat of nuclear conflict between rivals. Washington is meanwhile also pouring money into advanced missile defenze research to find ways to protect against hypersonics.


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