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February 18, 2015updated 19 Aug 2016 4:00pm

Arab hackers profile targets for political intel

Phishing and blagging used to score information from eminent victims.

By Jimmy Nicholls

An Arabian group of hackers is stealing political and military intelligence across the globe in a series of targeted strikes, according to a report from the security vendor Kaspersky Lab.

Dubbed the Desert Falcons, the attackers are said to be exploiting interest in political news to deliver malware via email, with three teams operating out of Palestine, Egypt and Turkey for the last two years.

Despite the scale of the operation Kaspersky claims the targeted attacks by the group are not necessarily exploiting unpatched "zero day" flaws, with many of the infection tactics proving more basic.

"Using phishing emails, social engineering and homemade tools and backdoors, the Desert Falcons were able to infect hundreds of sensitive and important victims in the Middle East region through their computer systems or mobile devices," the company said.

More than 3,000 victims are thought to have been attacked by the group, having been selected based on their eminence in given fields, which include media, education, government, military and finance.

Kaspersky believe that more than a million files have been taken by the Desert Falcons, with the hackers often gaining full control to victims’ machines after infection.

"We expect their operations to carry on developing more trojans and using more advanced techniques," the company concluded. "With enough funding, they might be able to acquire or develop exploits that would increase the efficiency of their attacks."

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