Heavy Rain Causes Deadly Flooding Across Iran

The monsoon-like rains, unusual for the typical dry season in the region, have killed more than 50 people, caused heavy damage and shut down major roadways.

#deaths-fatalities, #floods, #global-warming, #iran, #landslides-and-mudslides, #rain, #united-arab-emirates

Israel Downs Iran Drones With Arab Help, Signaling Growing Ties

The destruction of Iranian drones last year was an early example of a new regional military project that President Biden is trying to shore up during his Middle East visit.

#arabs, #bahrain, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #drones-pilotless-planes, #hezbollah, #international-relations, #iran, #israel, #military-aircraft, #morocco, #radar, #saudi-aramco, #sunni-muslims, #trump-donald-j, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-navy, #war-and-armed-conflicts

Saudi Arabia Bankrolls a Challenge to the PGA

Saudi Arabia is investing in sporting events, like an upstart golf tour, as part of a yearslong drive to turn the country into a hot spot for business and tourism and to blunt criticism of its human rights record.

#abu-dhabi-united-arab-emirates, #athletics-and-sports, #bahrain, #diriyah-saudi-arabia, #dubai-united-arab-emirates, #english-premier-league, #formula-one, #golf, #liv-golf, #newcastle-united-soccer-team, #pga-championship, #qatar, #riyadh-saudi-arabia, #saudi-arabia, #soccer, #united-arab-emirates, #womens-tennis-assn, #world-wrestling-entertainment-inc

Mohammed Bin Zayed Becomes U.A.E. President

Sheikh Mohammed has used his small country’s oil wealth to exert great influence across the Middle East and in Washington.

#middle-east, #nahyan-khalifa-bin-zayed-al, #nahyan-mohamed-bin-zayed-al-1961, #politics-and-government, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations

Baking Challah in Dubai: A Jewish Community Heads Out Into the Open

The increasing openness of Jewish life in the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai is another sign of an emerging new reality in the Middle East, where Israel’s isolation by the Arab world is ebbing.

#anti-semitism, #arabs, #dubai-united-arab-emirates, #israel, #jews-and-judaism, #peace-process, #politics-and-government, #united-arab-emirates

Yemen’s Houthis Went From Ragtag Militia to Force Threatening Gulf Powers

Iran’s cultivation of the Houthis over the years of war in Yemen has armed them with missiles and drones, endangering Washington’s partners and Tehran’s rivals, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

#defense-and-military-forces, #drones-pilotless-planes, #houthis, #international-relations, #iran, #middle-east, #politics-and-government, #saudi-arabia, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #yemen

How the Yemen War Connects to Saudi Arabia and Iran

Yemen was already the Arab world’s poorest country before its civil war began in 2014. Then a Saudi-led coalition joined the fight against the Iran-backed Houthi militia, spreading the ruin.

#bombs-and-explosives, #civilian-casualties, #defense-and-military-forces, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #houthis, #iran, #peace-process, #politics-and-government, #riyadh-saudi-arabia, #sana-yemen, #saudi-arabia, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations, #yemen

OPEC and Russia to Meet as War in Ukraine Roils Oil Market

Big producers seem to be sticking to modest output raises and alliance with Russia.

#abu-dhabi-national-oil-co-adnoc, #angola, #atlantic-council, #china, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #europe, #granholm-jennifer-m, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #houthis, #international-energy-agency, #international-trade-and-world-market, #middle-east-institute, #nigeria, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #prices-fares-fees-and-rates, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #saudi-arabia, #united-arab-emirates

Warring Parties in Yemen Announce Overlapping Cease-Fires

Both the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels said they would stop fighting, but further progress toward an end to the seven-year war in the country was uncertain.

#houthis, #iran, #persian-gulf, #saudi-arabia, #united-arab-emirates, #yemen

Israeli Summit Mixes Historic Symbolism With Sharp Disputes

The meeting of diplomats from Israel, the U.S. and four Arab countries was momentous just for taking place. But in private, they tried to hash out differences over Iran and the war in Ukraine.

#bahrain, #egypt, #international-relations, #iran, #israel, #morocco, #palestinians, #politics-and-government, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations

Blinken to Press Mideast Allies for Stronger Support for Ukraine

The countries, which have their own relationships with Russia, have provided some modest backing, but Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will ask for more.

#bahrain, #blinken-antony-j, #international-relations, #israel, #middle-east, #morocco, #nahyan-mohamed-bin-zayed-al-1961, #palestinians, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #united-arab-emirates

What to Know About Israel’s Summit With 4 Arab Countries

Four Arab foreign ministers will meet in Israel’s Negev desert on Sunday, along with their U.S. counterpart. The talks mark a realignment of Middle Eastern powers, accelerated by the war in Ukraine.

#arabs, #bahrain, #blinken-antony-j, #egypt, #europe, #international-relations, #israel, #jerusalem-israel, #morocco, #palestinians, #peace-process, #politics-and-government, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations, #war-and-armed-conflicts

Israel to Host 3 Arab Foreign Ministers in Historic Meeting

The gathering of top diplomats from Israel, the U.A.E., Bahrain and Morocco, as well as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, is a sign of how quickly Middle Eastern alliances are shifting.

#bahrain, #blinken-antony-j, #international-relations, #israel, #morocco, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations

Leaders of Israel, U.A.E. and Egypt Meet Amid Shifting Geopolitics

All three countries are navigating fraught relationships with the Biden administration amid the quickly changing geopolitical landscape precipitated by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

#assad-bashar-al, #bennett-naftali, #carnegie-endowment-for-international-peace, #egypt, #hamas, #hezbollah, #houthis, #iran, #israel, #israel-policy-forum, #nahyan-mohamed-bin-zayed-al-1961, #politics-and-government, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #sisi-abdel-fattah-el, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations

Assad Visits U.A.E. in Latest Sign of Re-engagement

It was the long-shunned Syrian leader’s first trip to an Arab country since his nation’s civil war erupted in 2011.

#assad-bashar-al, #maktoum-mohammed-bin-rashid-al, #syria, #united-arab-emirates

Europe Must End Its Energy Dependence on Russia

The Ukraine crisis shows just how energy dependent Europe has become on Russia. 

#alternative-and-renewable-energy, #canada, #coal, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #energy-and-power, #energy-efficiency, #europe, #european-union, #germany, #great-britain, #international-trade-and-world-market, #natural-gas, #nuclear-energy, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #organization-of-the-petroleum-exporting-countries, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #saudi-arabia, #scholz-olaf-1958, #ukraine, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states, #war-and-armed-conflicts

How Dubai Could Undermine Sanctions on Russian Oligarchs

Allies of President Vladimir Putin, arriving on private jets and yachts, are still welcome in the U.A.E., which has yet to condemn the Ukraine invasion or enforce sanctions.

#dubai-united-arab-emirates, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #high-net-worth-individuals, #politics-and-government, #putin-vladimir-v, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine-2022, #united-arab-emirates

The Battle for the World’s Most Powerful Cyberweapon

A Times investigation reveals how Israel reaped diplomatic gains around the world from NSO’s Pegasus spyware — a tool America itself purchased but is now trying to ban.

#apple-inc, #arms-trade, #central-intelligence-agency, #commerce-department, #cyberwarfare-and-defense, #defense-and-military-forces, #djibouti, #drug-enforcement-administration, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #facebook-inc, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #google-inc, #government-contracts-and-procurement, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #international-relations, #israel, #justice-department, #khashoggi-jamal, #martinelli-ricardo, #mexico, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #mohammed-bin-zayed, #mossad, #netanyahu-benjamin, #niv-karmi, #nso-group, #omri-lavie, #panama, #privacy, #raytheon-company, #saudi-arabia, #secret-service, #shalev-hulio, #smartphones, #sullivan-jacob-j-1976, #surveillance-of-citizens-by-government, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-africa-command, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #washington-post, #wireless-communications

Did We Miss Biden’s Most Important Remark About Russia?

Putin has something bigger to worry about at home than anything that happens in Ukraine.

#arctic-regions, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #ecopeace-middle-east, #global-warming, #israel, #jordan, #middle-east, #putin-vladimir-v, #russia, #saudi-arabia, #siberia, #united-arab-emirates

Japanese Company Joins March Back to the Moon in 2022

Before the end of the year, ispace aims to place a lander with two small rovers on the lunar surface. It may find other visitors have also made the trip this year.

#ispace-inc, #japan, #japan-aerospace-exploration-agency, #moon, #private-spaceflight, #rocket-science-and-propulsion, #space-and-astronomy, #united-arab-emirates

C.I.A.-Backed Afghan Fighters Are Still Waiting to Reach U.S.

Commandos who played a key role in helping American forces are waiting for visas in the United Arab Emirates, and are among the last of the evacuated Afghans to get a chance to reach the United States.

#afghanistan, #afghanistan-war-2001, #central-intelligence-agency, #refugees-and-displaced-persons, #state-department, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #visas

U.S. Intervenes to Repel Air Attack on United Arab Emirates

The attack came amid rising tensions between the Emirates and Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The United Arab Emirates is part of the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the Houthis for years.

#defense-and-military-forces, #houthis, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-air-force, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #yemen

Yemen’s Houthi Militia Claims Rare Military Strike on U.A.E.

Emirati officials said that several people had been killed in an explosion of fuel tankers in Abu Dhabi, possibly as a result of a drone attack.

#abu-dhabi-united-arab-emirates, #deaths-fatalities, #drones-pilotless-planes, #houthis, #united-arab-emirates, #yemen

Israeli Leader Meets Emirati Crown Prince in Abu Dhabi

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, the de facto leader of the United Arab Emirates, on a historic official trip to the Gulf state.

#bennett-naftali, #international-relations, #israel, #nahyan-mohamed-bin-zayed-al-1961, #politics-and-government, #united-arab-emirates

Sundays Off: U.A.E. Changes Its Weekend to Align With West

The United Arab Emirates, in a nod to global markets, has changed its workweek, declaring that Sunday, a work day in much of the Arab world, is now part of the weekend. Fridays will be half days.

#abu-dhabi-united-arab-emirates, #dubai-united-arab-emirates, #labor-and-jobs, #united-arab-emirates

Seeking Backers for New Fund, Jared Kushner Turns to Middle East

Former President Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law is trying to raise capital for his investment firm and is turning to a region that he dealt with extensively while in the White House.

#affinity-partners, #ethics-and-official-misconduct, #israel, #kushner-jared, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #persian-gulf, #private-equity, #qatar, #saudi-arabia, #sovereign-wealth-funds, #trump-donald-j, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

Gulf States Withdraw Ambassadors to Lebanon Over Criticism of Yemen War

With a few stray comments from a minor minister, Lebanon once again found itself caught in the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, underscoring just how vulnerable it is to the whims of its more powerful neighbors.

#aden-yemen, #aoun-michel-1935, #bahrain, #diplomatic-service-embassies-and-consulates, #hezbollah, #kuwait, #lebanon, #saudi-arabia, #united-arab-emirates, #yemen

U.A.E., an Oil Giant, Aims to Burnish Climate Credentials

Trying to attract investors and retain customers, the United Arab Emirates says it will step up its efforts to cut emissions.

#abu-dhabi-united-arab-emirates, #abu-dhabi-national-oil-company-adnoc, #alternative-and-renewable-energy, #global-warming, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #natural-gas, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #sultan-al-jaber, #united-arab-emirates

Ex-U.S. Intelligence Officers Admit to Hacking Crimes in Work for Emiratis

They were among a trend of Americans working for foreign governments trying to build their cyberoperation abilities.

#americans-abroad, #classified-information-and-state-secrets, #cyberwarfare-and-defense, #dark-matter-llc, #deferred-prosecution-agreements, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #justice-department, #national-security-agency, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-defense-and-military-forces, #united-states-politics-and-government

A new NSO zero-click attack evades Apple’s iPhone security protections, says Citizen Lab

A Bahraini human rights activist’s iPhone was silently hacked earlier this year by a powerful spyware sold to nation-states, defeating new security protections that Apple designed to withstand covert compromises, say researchers at Citizen Lab.

The activist, who remains in Bahrain and asked not to be named, is a member of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, an award-winning nonprofit organization that promotes human rights in the Gulf state. The group continues to operate despite a ban imposed by the kingdom in 2004 following the arrest of its director for criticizing the country’s then-prime minister.

Citizen Lab, the internet watchdog based at the University of Toronto, analyzed the activist’s iPhone 12 Pro and found evidence that it was hacked starting in February using a so-called “zero-click” attack, since it does not require any user interaction to infect a victim’s device. The zero-click attack took advantage of a previously unknown security vulnerability in Apple’s iMessage, which was exploited to push the Pegasus spyware, developed by Israeli firm NSO Group, to the activist’s phone.

The hack is significant, not least because Citizen Lab researchers said it found evidence that the zero-click attack successfully exploited the latest iPhone software at the time, both iOS 14.4 and later iOS 14.6, which Apple released in May. But the hacks also circumvent a new software security feature built into all versions of iOS 14, dubbed BlastDoor, which is supposed to prevent these kinds of device hacks by filtering malicious data sent over iMessage.

Because of its ability to circumvent BlastDoor, the researchers called this latest exploit ForcedEntry.

Citizen Lab’s Bill Marczak told TechCrunch that the researchers made Apple aware of the efforts to target and exploit up-to-date iPhones. When reached by TechCrunch, Apple would not explicitly say if it had found and fixed the vulnerability that NSO is exploiting.

In a boilerplate statement re-released Tuesday, Apple’s head of security engineering and architecture Ivan Krstic said: “Apple unequivocally condemns cyberattacks against journalists, human rights activists, and others seeking to make the world a better place … Attacks like the ones described are highly sophisticated, cost millions of dollars to develop, often have a short shelf life, and are used to target specific individuals. While that means they are not a threat to the overwhelming majority of our users, we continue to work tirelessly to defend all our customers, and we are constantly adding new protections for their devices and data.”

Read more on TechCrunch

A spokesperson for Apple said BlastDoor was not the end of its efforts to secure iMessage and that it has strengthened its defenses in iOS 15, which is slated for release in the next month or so.

Citizen Lab said the Bahraini government was likely behind the targeting of the Bahraini human rights activist, as well as eight other Bahraini activists between June 2020 and February 2021.

Bahrain is one of several authoritarian states known to be government customers of Pegasus, including Saudi Arabia, Rwanda, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico; though, NSO has repeatedly declined to name or confirm its dozens of customers, citing nondisclosure agreements.

Five of the targeted Bahrainis’ phone numbers were found on the Pegasus Project list of 50,000 phone numbers of potential surveillance targets of the Pegasus spyware, which gives its government customers near-complete access to a target’s device, including their personal data, photos, messages and location.

One of those listed phone numbers belongs to another member of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, which Citizen Lab said was targeted months earlier and with a different zero-click exploit, called Kismet, which predates ForcedEntry. Citizen Lab says Kismet no longer works on iOS 14 and later since BlastDoor was introduced, but still poses a risk to devices running older iPhone versions.

Two other Bahrainis, who now live in exile in London and consented to be named, also had their iPhones hacked.

Moosa Abd-Ali, a photojournalist who was previously targeted by FinFisher spyware sold to the Bahraini government, had his iPhone hacked while living in London. Citizen Lab said it has only seen the Bahraini government spy in Bahrain and in neighboring Qatar, and said it suspects that another foreign government with access to Pegasus may have been responsible for the hack. Recent reporting found the United Arab Emirates, a close ally of Bahrain, is the “principal government” for selecting phone numbers in the U.K. Abd-Ali’s phone number was also on the list of 50,000 phone numbers.

Bahraini activist Yusuf Al-Jamri also had his iPhone hacked, believed by the Bahraini government, some time before September 2019, though it is not known if Al-Jamri’s iPhone was hacked while in Bahrain or the UAE, before he was granted asylum in the U.K. in 2017.

The seven unnamed Bahrainis continue to work in the kingdom despite a long history of human rights violations, internet censorship and widespread oppression. Reporters Without Borders ranks Bahrain’s human rights record as one of the most restrictive in the world, ranked only behind Iran, China and North Korea. A 2020 report by the U.S. State Department on Bahrain’s human rights said the country cited considerable violations and abuses, and noted that the government “used computer programs to surveil political activists and members of the opposition inside and outside the country.”

When reached, NSO Group did not answer specific questions nor would it say if the Bahraini government was a customer. In a statement attributed only as an NSO spokesperson sent via its external public relations firm Mercury, NSO said that it had not seen Citizen Lab’s findings and that it would “vigorously investigate the claims and act accordingly based on the findings.”

NSO recently claimed it cut off five government customers’ access to Pegasus for human rights abuses.

Zainab Al-Nasheet, a spokesperson for the Bahraini government, told TechCrunch in a statement: “These claims are based on unfounded allegations and misguided conclusions. The government of Bahrain is committed to safeguarding the individuals’ rights and freedoms.”

Abd-Ali, who said he was arrested and tortured in Bahrain, said that he thought he would find safety in the U.K. but that he still encounters digital surveillance but also physical attacks, as many victims of spyware experience.

“Instead of protecting me, the U.K. government has stayed silent while three of their close allies — Israel, Bahrain and the UAE — conspired to invade the privacy of myself and dozens of other activists,” he said.

You can send tips securely over Signal and WhatsApp to +1 646-755-8849. You can also send files or documents using our SecureDrop.

#apple, #bahrain, #espionage, #government, #imessage, #iphone, #nso-group, #pegasus, #privacy, #security, #spyware, #united-arab-emirates

Siga secures $8.1M Series B to prevent cyberattacks on critical infrastructure

Siga OT Solutions, an Israeli cybersecurity startup that helps organizations secure their operations by monitoring the raw electric signals of critical industrial assets, has raised $8.1 million in Series B funding.

Siga’s SigaGuard says its technology, used by Israel’s critical water facilities and the New York Power Authority, is unique in that rather than monitoring the operational network, it uses machine learning and predictive analysis to “listen” to Level 0 signals. These are typically made up of components and sensors that receive electrical signals, rather than protocols or data packets that can be manipulated by hackers.

By monitoring Level 0, which Siga describes as the “richest and most reliable level of process data within any operational environment,” the company can detect cyberattacks on the most critical and vulnerable physical assets of national infrastructures. This, it claims, ensures operational resiliency even when hackers are successful in manipulating the logic of industrial control system (ICS) controllers.

Amir Samoiloff, co-founder and CEO of Siga, says: “Level 0 is becoming the major axis in the resilience and integrity of critical national infrastructures worldwide and securing this level will become a major element in control systems in the coming years.”

The company’s latest round of funding — led by PureTerra Ventures, with investment from Israeli venture fund SIBF, Moore Capital, and Phoenix Contact — comes amid an escalation in attacks against operational infrastructure. Israel’s water infrastructure was hit by three known cyberattacks in 2020 and these were followed by an attack on the water system of a city in Florida that saw hackers briefly increase the amount of sodium hydroxide in Oldsmar’s water treatment system. 

The $8.1 million investment lands three years after the startup secured $3.5 million in Series A funding. The company said it will use the funding to accelerate its sales and strategic collaborations internationally, with a focus on North America, Europe, Asia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

Read more:

#articles, #asia, #computer-security, #cryptography, #cyberattack, #cybercrime, #cybersecurity-startup, #cyberwarfare, #data-security, #energy, #europe, #florida, #israel, #machine-learning, #north-america, #nozomi-networks, #phoenix, #ransomware, #security, #united-arab-emirates

A Foreign Agent in Trump’s Inner Circle?

Even amid a glut of scandals, Tom Barrack’s arrest is a big deal.

#barrack-thomas-j-jr, #foreign-investments, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #nahyan-mohamed-bin-zayed-al-1961, #presidential-election-of-2016, #russian-interference-in-2016-us-elections-and-ties-to-trump-associates, #saudi-arabia, #trump-donald-j, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

Thomas Barrack, Trump Fund-Raiser, Is Indicted on Lobbying Charge

Mr. Barrack, the chairman of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, was accused of failing to register as a lobbyist for the United Arab Emirates, obstruction of justice and lying to investigators.

#barrack-thomas-j-jr, #campaign-finance, #colony-capital-llc, #corruption-institutional, #foreign-agents-registration-act, #justice-department, #lobbying-and-lobbyists, #presidential-election-of-2016, #saudi-arabia, #trump-donald-j, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government

This tool tells you if NSO’s Pegasus spyware targeted your phone

Over the weekend, an international consortium of news outlets reported that several authoritarian governments — including Mexico, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates — used spyware developed by NSO Group to hack into the phones of thousands of their most vocal critics, including journalists, activists, politicians and business executives.

A leaked list of 50,000 phone numbers of potential surveillance targets was obtained by Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and shared with the reporting consortium, including The Washington Post and The Guardian. Researchers analyzed the phones of dozens of victims to confirm they were targeted by the NSO’s Pegasus spyware, which can access all of the data on a person’s phone. The reports also confirm new details of the government customers themselves, which NSO Group closely guards. Hungary, a member of the European Union where privacy from surveillance is supposed to be a fundamental right for its 500 million residents, is named as an NSO customer.

The reporting shows for the first time how many individuals are likely targets of NSO’s intrusive device-level surveillance. Previous reporting had put the number of known victims in the hundreds or more than a thousand.

NSO Group sharply rejected the claims. NSO has long said that it doesn’t know who its customers target, which it reiterated in a statement to TechCrunch on Monday.

Researchers at Amnesty, whose work was reviewed by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, found that NSO can deliver Pegasus by sending a victim a link which when opened infects the phone, or silently and without any interaction at all through a “zero-click” exploit, which takes advantage of vulnerabilities in the iPhone’s software. Citizen Lab researcher Bill Marczak said in a tweet that NSO’s zero-clicks worked on iOS 14.6, which until today was the most up-to-date version.

Amnesty’s researchers showed their work by publishing meticulously detailed technical notes and a toolkit that they said may help others identify if their phones have been targeted by Pegasus.

The Mobile Verification Toolkit, or MVT, works on both iPhones and Android devices, but slightly differently. Amnesty said that more forensic traces were found on iPhones than Android devices, which makes it easier to detect on iPhones. MVT will let you take an entire iPhone backup (or a full system dump if you jailbreak your phone) and feed in for any indicators of compromise (IOCs) known to be used by NSO to deliver Pegasus, such as domain names used in NSO’s infrastructure that might be sent by text message or email. If you have an encrypted iPhone backup, you can also use MVT to decrypt your backup without having to make a whole new copy.

The Terminal output from the MVT toolkit, which scans iPhone and Android backup files for indicators of compromise. (Image: TechCrunch)

The toolkit works on the command line, so it’s not a refined and polished user experience and requires some basic knowledge of how to navigate the terminal. We got it working in about 10 minutes, plus the time to create a fresh backup of an iPhone, which you will want to do if you want to check up to the hour. To get the toolkit ready to scan your phone for signs of Pegasus, you’ll need to feed in Amnesty’s IOCs, which it has on its GitHub page. Any time the indicators of compromise file updates, download and use an up-to-date copy.

Once you set off the process, the toolkit scans your iPhone backup file for any evidence of compromise. The process took about a minute or two to run and spit out several files in a folder with the results of the scan. If the toolkit finds a possible compromise, it will say so in the outputted files. In our case, we got one “detection,” which turned out to be a false positive and has been removed from the IOCs after we checked with the Amnesty researchers. A new scan using the updated IOCs returned no signs of compromise.

Given it’s more difficult to detect an Android infection, MVT takes a similar but simpler approach by scanning your Android device backup for text messages with links to domains known to be used by NSO. The toolkit also lets you scan for potentially malicious applications installed on your device.

The toolkit is — as command line tools go — relatively simple to use, though the project is open source so not before long surely someone will build a user interface for it. The project’s detailed documentation will help you — as it did us.

Read more:

You can send tips securely over Signal and WhatsApp to +1 646-755-8849. You can also send files or documents using our SecureDrop. Learn more

#amnesty-international, #android, #cisco, #computing, #espionage, #european-union, #government, #hungary, #iphone, #mexico, #microsoft, #morocco, #nso, #nso-group, #paris, #pegasus, #securedrop, #security, #smartphones, #software, #spyware, #the-guardian, #the-washington-post, #united-arab-emirates, #vmware, #whatsapp

OPEC Plus Agrees on Oil Production Increase, Ending Dispute With U.A.E.

The pact clears the way for the group to pump more oil, helping ease a potential supply squeeze as global economies revive from pandemic lockdowns.

#global-warming, #oil-petroleum-and-gasoline, #organization-of-the-petroleum-exporting-countries, #production, #saudi-arabia, #united-arab-emirates

Abu Dhabi-based micromobility operator Fenix launches 10-minute grocery delivery service

United Arab Emirates-based shared micromobility operator Fenix is expanding the use of its electric scooters and back-end logistics to not only move people, but also to move goods. On Tuesday, the company announced the launch of a 10-minute fresh grocery delivery service on Reem Island, a dense, mixed-use development off the coast of Abu Dhabi. 

Fenix’s new service, F10, will utilize available vehicles from the operator’s normal shared fleet for deliveries. Delivery riders will also be considered shared resources with Fenix’s e-scooter service, taking turns between making fast deliveries and swapping batteries. The company is building a single integrated platform to manage the fleets and services.

The shared e-scooter business is still new and has not yet been incredibly profitable for existing operators due in large part to the low life expectancy of the vehicles and the cost of paying workers to swap batteries. Fenix’s expanded business model is a novel way to make the most out of the sunk cost of its hardware and employee base while also exploring a market that is expected to grow by nearly $632 billion over the next three years, according to market research and advisory company Technavio.

Logistically speaking, Fenix might be onto something. Its “dark stores,” or compact, private retail facilities, are scattered around Reem Island in optimized locations, each with a large catchment area that falls within a narrow delivery radius, according to Jaideep Dhanoa, co-founder and CEO of Fenix. Dhanoa did not reveal how many dark stores the company has placed throughout the island.  

For Fenix, the dark store is also a distributed charging center for our swappable battery e-scooter operations, which allows us to share the real estate costs between the two businesses and also increase the productivity of our e-scooter operations via more distributed charging locations,” said Dhanoa.

Dhanoa said Fenix’s full-time employees, who are all company stakeholders, are trained to accept, pick and pack items for delivery in the dark stores within two minutes before relaying the goods to a rider who has a mere eight minutes to make it to the customer. Not a stressful situation at all! It wouldn’t be surprising to see Fenix’s next funding round focus on R&D for robots that will gather groceries faster and without the pressure of human error.

Such quick delivery couldn’t be done without urban density, which is largely what drew Fenix to Reem Island. The small island, which is one of the only free zones in the city where foreign nationals can buy property, holds a residential population of about 100,000 people. Dhanoa said the island also presents multiple use cases in the form of residential and commercial towers and shopping malls. 

“Wherever there is a dense population, there will be a market for F10,” said Dhanoa. 

The new business expansion was in part funded by an undisclosed round that was recently raised from existing investors, like Maniv Mobility, the Israeli venture firm that also funded electric mobility company Revel and invested $3.8 million in Fenix’s seed round last November. (Maniv Mobility’s investment in Fenix was the first time an Israeli firm invested in a business from the UAE, a sign that companies are making good on the Abraham Accords’ promise to normalize relations between the two countries.) But Dhanoa told TechCrunch that the costs of launching the F10 delivery service didn’t require deep pockets, “given the unique synergies with our existing micromobiltiy business.”

The F10 app can be downloaded in the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store. To kick things off, Fenix is offering new users their first order up to AED 50 (~$14 USD) for free.

#abu-dhabi, #e-scooters, #ecommerce, #fenix, #food, #transportation, #united-arab-emirates

Why former Alibaba scientist wants to back founders outside the Ivory Tower

Min Wanli had a career path much coveted by those pursuing a career in computer science. A prodigy, Min was accepted to a top research university in China at the age of 14. He subsequently obtained Ph.D. degrees in physics and statistics from the University of Chicago before spending nearly a combined decade at IBM and Google.

Like many young, aspiring Chinese scientists working in the United States, Min returned to China when the country’s internet boom was underway in the early 2010s. He joined Alibaba’s fledgling cloud arm and was at the forefront of applying its tech to industrial scenarios, like using visual identification to mitigate highway traffic and computing power to improve factory efficiency.

Then in July 2019, Min took a leap. He resigned from Alibaba Cloud, which had become a major growth driver for the e-commerce goliath and at the time China’s largest public cloud infrastructure provider (it still is). With no experience in investment, he started a new venture capital firm called North Summit Capital.

“A lot of enterprises were quite skeptical of ‘digital transformation’ around 2016 and 2017. But by 2019, after they had seen success cases [from Alibaba Cloud], they no longer questioned its viability,” said Min in his office overlooking a cluster of urban villages and highrise offices in Shenzhen. Clad in a well-ironed light blue shirt, he talked with a childlike, earnest smile.

“Suddenly, everyone wanted to go digital. But how am I supposed to meet their needs with a team of just 400-500 people?”

Min’s solution was not to serve the old-school factories and corporations himself but to finance and support a raft of companies to do so. Soon he closed the first fund for North Summit with “several hundreds of millions of dollars” from an undisclosed high-net-worth individual from the United Arab Emirates, whom Min had met when he represented Alibaba at a Duhai tech conference in 2018.

“Venture capital is like a magnifier through which I can connect with a lot of tech companies and share my lessons from the past, so they can quickly and effectively work with their clients from traditional industries,” Min said.

“For example, I’d discuss with my portfolio firms whether they should focus on selling hardware pieces or software first, or give them equal weight.”

Min strives to be deeply involved in the companies he backs. North Summit invests early, with check sizes so far ranging from roughly $5 million to $25 million. Min also started a technology service company called Quadtalent to provide post-investment support to his portfolio.

Photo: North Summit Capital’s office in Shenzhen

The notion of digital transformation is both buzzy and daunting for many investors due to the highly complex and segmented nature of traditional industries. But Min has a list of criteria to help narrow down his targets.

First, an investable area should be data-intensive. Subway tracks, for example, could benefit from implementing large amounts of sensors that monitor the rail system’s stauts. Second, an area’s manufacturing or business process should be capital-intensive, such as production lines that use exorbitant equipment. And lastly, the industry should be highly dependent on repetitive human experience, like police directing traffic.

Solving industrial problems require not just founders’ computing ingenuity but more critically, their experience in a traditional sector. As such, Min goes beyond the “Ivory Tower” of computer science wizards when he looks for entrepreneurs.

“What we need today is a type of inter-disciplinary talent who can do ‘compound algorithms.’ That means understanding sensor signals, business rationales, manufacturing, as well as computer algorithms. Applying neural network through an algorithmic black box without the other factors is simply futile.”

Min faces ample competition as investors hunt down the next ABB, Schneider, or Siemens of China. The country is driving towards technological independence in all facets of the economy and the national mandate takes on new urgency as COVID-19 disrupts global supply chains. The result is skyrocketing valuations for startups touting “industrial upgrade” solutions, Min noted.

But factory bosses don’t care whether their automation solution providers are unerdogs or startup unicorns. “At the end of the day, the factory CFO will only ask, ‘how much more money does this piece of software or equipment help us save or make?’”

The investor is cautious about deploying his maiden fund. Two years into operation, North Summit has closed four deals: TopScore, a 17-year-old footwear manufacturer embracing automation; Lingumi, a London-based English learning app targeting Chinese pre-school kids; Aerodyne, a Malaysian drone service provider; and Extreme Vision, a marketplace connecting small-and-medium enterprises to affordable AI vision solutions. 

This year, North Summit aims to invest close to $100 million in companies inside and outside China. Optical storage and robotic process automation (RPA) are just two areas that have been on Min’s radar in recent days.

#abb, #alibaba, #alibaba-cloud, #alibaba-group, #asia, #china, #cloud-computing, #cloud-infrastructure, #computing, #dubai, #funding, #ibm, #manufacturing, #siemens, #tc, #united-arab-emirates, #university-of-chicago, #venture-capital


Logistics, cost and official standards are needed for the dogs to fulfill their potential in medical fields.

#airport-security, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #lois-privor-dumm, #medicine-and-health, #national-institute-of-standards-and-technology, #service-dogs-and-other-animals, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states, #your-feed-science

YC-backed Ziina raises $7.5M seed led by Avenir Growth Capital and Class 5 Global

Cash is the predominant method of sending and receiving payments in the Middle East. If you owe someone a cup of coffee or a trip over a long period, repaying via cash is your best bet. This is one problem out of many financial issues that haven’t been addressed in the region.

The good news is that startups are springing up to provide solutions. Last month Telda, a now two-month-old startup in Egypt, raised an impressive sum as pre-seed to offer digital banking services. Today, Ziina, another startup based in Dubai, has closed $7.5 million in seed funding to scale its peer-to-peer (P2P) payment service across the Middle East and North Africa.

Ziina has managed to enlist top global investors and fintech founders in the round. Avenir Growth and Class 5 Global led this latest tranche of financing. Wamda Capital, FJ Labs, Graph Ventures, Goodwater Capital, Jabbar Internet Group, Oman Technology Fund’s Jasoor Ventures, and ANIM also participated.

The founders who took part include Checkout CEO Guillaume Pousaz via his investment fund Zinal Growth; Krishnan Menon, BukuKas CEO, as well as executives from Paypal and Venmo. This adds to a roster of executives and early employees from Revolut, Stripe, Brex, Notion, and Deel that joined Ziina’s round.

According to the company, it has raised over $8.6 million since launching last year. This includes the $850,000 pre-seed raised in May 2020 and $125,000 secured after going through Y Combinator’s Winter batch early this year.

Ziina was founded by Faisal Toukan, Sarah Toukan, and Andrew Gold. It’s the latest addition to the Middle East’s bubbling fintech ecosystem and is capitalising on the region’s rapid adoption of fintech friendly regulation.

The company allows users to send and receive payments with just a phone number —no IBAN or swift code required as is the de facto method in the UAE and some parts of the Middle East. It also claims to be the country’s first licensed social peer-to-peer application “on a mission to simplify finance for everyone.”

After meeting during a hackathon in the U.S., Faisal and Gold began exchanging ideas on how to build wallets, wanting to mirror the successes platforms like WePay, Paytm have had. At the time, VCs seemed to be interested in how the wallets ecosystem intersected with banking.

“The lines between wallets and banking have become really blurred. Every wallet has a banking partner, and people who use wallets use them for their day-to-day needs,” CEO Faisal Toukan said to TechCrunch.

On the other hand, Sarah, who is Faisal’s sister, was on her personal fintech journey in London. There, she attended several meetups headlined by the founders of Monzo and Revolut. With her knowledge and the experience of the other two, the founders decided that solving P2P payments issues was their own way of driving massive impact in the Middle East.

So how far have they gone? “We launched a beta for the market but it’s restricted for regulatory reasons and basically to keep ourselves in check with the ecosystem,” Toukan remarked. “Since then, we’ve gotten regulated. We’ve got a banking partner, one of the three largest banks in the UAE, and we’ve set a new wallet a month from now. That’s also what we were working throughout our period in YC. So it’s been quite an eventful year.”

The fintech sector in MENA is growing fast; in terms of numbers, at a CAGR of 30%. Also, in the UAE, it is estimated that over 450 fintech companies will raise about $2 billion in 2022 compared to the $80 million raised in 2017. Fintechs in the region are focused on solving payments, transfers, and remittances. Alongside its P2P offering, these are the areas Ziina wants to play in, including investment and cryptocurrency services.

According to Toukan, there’s no ease of making online investments, and remittances are done in exchange houses, a manual process where people need to visit an office physically. “So what we’re looking to do is to bring all these products to life in the UAE and expand beyond that. But the first pain point we’re solving for is for people to send and receive money with two clicks,” the CEO affirmed.

Starting with P2P has its own advantages. First, peer-to-peer services is a repeat behavioural mechanism that allows companies to establish trust with customers. Also, it’s a cheaper customer acquisition model. Toukan says that as Zinna expands geographically — Saudi Arabia and Jordan in 2022; and Egypt and Tunisia some years from now — as he wants the company’s wallet to become seamless across borders. “We want a situation where if you move into Saudi or Dubai, you’re able to use the same wallet versus using different banking applications,” he added

To be on the right side of regulation is key to any fintech expansion, and Toukan says Ziina has been in continuous dialogue with regulators to operate efficiently. But some challenges have stemmed from finding the right banking partners. “You need to make a case to the banks that this is basically a mutually beneficial partnership. And the way we’ve done that is by basically highlighting different cases globally like CashApp that worked with Southern Bank,” he said.

Now that the company has moved past that challenge, it’s in full swing to launch. Presently, Ziina has thousands of users who transacted more than $120,000 on the platform this past month. In addition, there are over 20,000 users on its waiting list to be onboarded post-launch.

Ziina has already built a team with experience across tech companies like Apple, Uber, Stanford, Coinbase, Careem, Oracle, and Yandex. It plans to double down on hiring with this new investment and customer acquisition and establishing commercial partnerships.

#africa, #careem, #checkout, #dubai, #egypt, #finance, #funding, #guillaume-pousaz, #jabbar-internet-group, #middle-east, #mobile, #monzo, #payments, #paypal, #paytm, #saudi-arabia, #tc, #tunisia, #united-arab-emirates, #venmo, #yandex

U.S. Is Expected to Approve Some Arms Sales to U.A.E. and Saudis

The Biden administration is close to completing a review of Trump-era weapons sales to the two Gulf Arab states. Democrats in Congress oppose the deals.

#arms-trade, #biden-joseph-r-jr, #defense-and-military-forces, #drones-pilotless-planes, #human-rights-and-human-rights-violations, #israel, #military-aircraft, #peace-process, #saudi-arabia, #state-department, #trump-donald-j, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations, #united-states-politics-and-government, #yemen

Vaccine Passports Could Unlock World Travel and Cries of Discrimination

Vaccine rollouts in some countries have a long-locked-down world dreaming of travels abroad again. But they have also set off a fraught debate about the fairness of a two-tier system for haves and have-nots.

#aruba, #canada, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #europe, #great-britain, #israel, #japan, #politics-and-government, #quarantines, #saudi-arabia, #singapore, #travel-and-vacations, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states, #vaccination-and-immunization, #vaccination-proof-and-immunization-records

Tensions With Arab Allies Undermine a Netanyahu Pitch to Israeli Voters

The Israeli prime minister has presented himself as a global leader, but that image has been dented by tensions with Jordan and the United Arab Emirates as Israeli voters head to the polls on Tuesday.

#defense-and-military-forces, #elections, #international-relations, #israel, #netanyahu-benjamin, #peace-process, #politics-and-government, #united-arab-emirates

Israel, the U.A.E. and a New Middle East

We may be witnessing a major realignment of the Middle East.

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #hamas, #hezbollah, #iran, #israel, #middle-east, #mohammed-bin-salman-1985, #palestinians, #saudi-arabia, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations

Vanishing in the Desert, Traditional Bedouin Culture Lives Online

After 50 years of fieldwork in the Negev and Sinai deserts, an Israeli researcher donated his rare archive to the National Library of Israel.

#bedouins, #egypt, #israel, #jerusalem-israel, #national-library-of-israel, #nomadic-people, #sinai-peninsula-egypt, #united-arab-emirates

Erik Prince, Trump Ally, Violated Libya Arms Embargo, U.N. Report Says

Mr. Prince offered to supply weapons, drones and mercenaries to a Libyan militia commander seeking to overthrow the government, according to U.N. investigators.

#abdullah-ii-king-of-jordan, #embargoes-and-sanctions, #hifter-khalifa, #libya, #mercenaries-and-private-military-contractors, #prince-erik-d, #united-arab-emirates, #united-nations

Muted Reaction in Israel and Gulf to U.S. Push for Iran Talks

Nations that were fierce opponents to the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran responded cautiously to the Biden administration’s decision to re-engage. In Russia, a government spokesman called the move a “plus.”

#biden-joseph-r-jr, #israel, #netanyahu-benjamin, #saudi-arabia, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states-international-relations

In Videos, Dubai Princess Says She Is a ‘Hostage’

Sheikha Latifa, who drew headlines in 2018 when she unsuccessfully sought to flee her country, says she has been held in a virtual prison since her forced return.

#dubai-united-arab-emirates, #maktoum-latifa-bint-mohammed-al, #maktoum-mohammed-bin-rashid-al, #robinson-mary-1944, #united-arab-emirates, #video-recordings-downloads-and-streaming

After a Decade of Chaos, Can a Splintered Libya Be Made Whole?

An interim government promises peace, unity and democratic elections. Skeptical Libyans say they’ve heard this promise before.

#central-bank-of-libya, #libya, #russia, #tripoli-libya, #turkey, #united-arab-emirates, #united-nations

In a Dangerous Game of Cat and Mouse, Iran Eyes New Targets in Africa

Fifteen people arrested in Ethiopia were part of what American and Israeli officials said was a foiled Iranian plot against diplomats from the United Arab Emirates.

#addis-ababa-ethiopia, #diplomatic-service-embassies-and-consulates, #espionage-and-intelligence-services, #iran, #israel, #suleimani-qassim, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states

A Decade After the Arab Spring, Autocrats Still Rule the Mideast

The popular uprisings of 2011 mostly failed, but they gave the region a taste for democracy that continues to whet an appetite for change.

#assad-bashar-al, #bahrain, #ben-ali-zine-el-abidine, #cairo-egypt, #iran, #iraq, #jordan, #lebanon, #middle-east, #middle-east-and-north-africa-unrest-2010, #mubarak-hosni, #muslim-brotherhood-egypt, #muslims-and-islam, #nahyan-mohamed-bin-zayed-al-1961, #obama-barack, #politics-and-government, #qaddafi-muammar-el, #russia, #saudi-arabia, #sudan, #syria, #tahrir-square-cairo, #trump-donald-j, #tunisia, #turkey, #united-arab-emirates, #united-states, #united-states-international-relations, #war-and-armed-conflicts, #yemen