Meet "Flame," The Massive Spy Malware Infiltrating Iranian Computers - Kim Zetter (Wired)
A highly sophisticated piece of malware has been newly found infecting systems in Iran and elsewhere and is believed to be part of a well-coordinated, ongoing, state-run cyberespionage operation.
Dubbed "Flame" by Russia-based anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab,
the malicious code is designed primarily to spy on the users of infected computers and steal data from them.
"It's quite interesting that it stayed undetected for at least two years,” said Alexander Gostev, chief security expert at Kaspersky Lab.
Kaspersky discovered the malware about two weeks ago after looking into reports in April that computers belonging to the Iranian Oil Ministry and the Iranian National Oil Company had been hit with malware that was stealing and deleting information from the systems.
Among Flame's many modules is one that turns on the internal microphone of an infected machine to secretly record conversations that occur either over Skype or in the computer's near vicinity; a module that turns Bluetooth-enabled computers into a Bluetooth beacon, which scans for other Bluetooth-enabled devices in the vicinity to siphon names and phone numbers from their contacts folder; and a module that grabs and stores frequent screenshots of activity on the machine, such as instant-messaging and email communications, and sends them via a covert SSL channel to the attackers' command-and-control servers.
No Jordanian Ambassador in Israel for Two Years - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
Israel is increasingly reluctant to lobby on behalf of the Jordanians in Washington because of Amman's continued refusal to send its ambassador back to Israel, the Jerusalem Post has learned.
While the intelligence and security relationship is good, the lack of a Jordanian ambassador - a concrete symbol of normal relations between two countries at peace - is not a good sign.
Egypt has an ambassador in Tel Aviv.
Toulouse Terrorist Slipped Through French Siege - Joseph Strich (Jerusalem Post)
It is now known that Mohamed Merah, the French terrorist who killed seven people in March including four at a Jewish day school,
left his apartment, which had been surrounded by police
on March 21, two hours before the final assault.
He walked 1 km. to a telephone booth where he called a journalist from the TV channel France 24.
Le Parisien newspaper quotes an agent from France's DCRI security agency as saying: "The men in the surveillance position had fallen asleep, and because of that did not see Merah passing in front of them."
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- International Pressure on Syria Grows After Killings - Neil MacFarquhar
International efforts to pressure Syria intensified on Monday, as UN special envoy Kofi Annan began negotiations in Damascus, and the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff warned that continued atrocities could make military intervention more likely.
The aftermath of the massacre at Houla on Friday, whose victims included 49 children and 34 women by UN count, continued to reverberate inside Syria. Shops in Damascus stayed shut as part of an opposition-led call to observe three days of mourning.
(New York Times)
See also Australia Expels Two Syrian Diplomats over Massacre (AFP)
- Syrian Defectors Accuse Assad Family of Ordering Crimes Against Humanity - Jonathan Miller
New evidence has emerged that members of Bashar al-Assad's family and inner circle are directly ordering the commission of crimes against humanity in Syria. Experts in international law consider it "preposterous and completely implausible" that the president would be unaware of systematic and widespread killing and torture.
The documentary, "The Real Mr. and Mrs. Assad," broadcast Monday in the UK on Channel 4, examines emails downloaded from the private accounts of Assad and his wife, Asma, and
reports claims by two defectors that Brig.-Gen. Atef Najib, Assad's cousin, ordered them to fire live ammunition at demonstrators. (Guardian-UK)
- Turkish Court Indicts 4 Israeli Military Leaders - Isabel Kershner
An Istanbul court approved indictments on Monday against four senior Israeli military figures for involvement in a deadly raid on a Turkish vessel trying to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza in May 2010. In response, a senior Israeli official said the Turkish government had apparently decided to kill what was left of the diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
Israel insisted that its soldiers had acted in self-defense. A UN report subsequently found that Israel's naval blockade was legal and appropriate. A senior Israeli official said Turkish Prime Minister "Erdogan decided to launch a targeted killing of the relationship."
At the same time, trade between Israel and Turkey - nearly $4 billion a year - has hardly been affected by the diplomatic freeze. (New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel: Nuclear Negotiations with Iran Are Not Working - Herb Keinon
The current round of negotiations between the world powers and Iran is "not working," a senior Israeli official said Monday, adding that after two meetings there is "not an iota of evidence indicating the Iranians are in any way serious about curbing their nuclear program." At last week's talks in Baghdad, the official said, what the international community put on the table "is less than what is needed, and even those minimal demands were rejected by the Iranians." (Jerusalem Post)
- Syrian Opposition Leader: Assad Still Has 70,000 Loyal Troops - Anshel Pfeffer
A former senior officer in the Syrian Army, now an opposition leader, told Ha'aretz that around a third of the Syrian armed forces have defected so far. "There are two kinds of defectors," he says, "the majority, around 60,000, have simply run away, back to their homes, while some 30,000 have actively joined the opposition, mostly the Free Syrian Army, and are fighting."
Yet the government still has a number of loyal units, numbering around 70,000 soldiers. The Fourth Armored Division, commanded by President Assad's younger brother, Maher, is equipped with advanced Russian tanks and attack helicopters and numbers around 25,000 men.
About 80% are Alawites and nearly 90% are career soldiers, in contrast to the conscripts who comprise most of the army's other units.
Other loyal formations are the ten Special Forces "commando" regiments, with around 1,500 men each, and the Republican Guard division, as well as forces operating under the four intelligence services and the irregular Shabiha militia, which have carried out many of the murders of civilians.
"Out of about 6,000 soldiers and officers who have been reported killed since the uprising began, at least half were shot by regime loyalists." (Ha'aretz)
- PA TV Glorifies Armed Attacks Against Israel - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
On April 27, Palestinian Authority TV broadcast a music video glorifying and calling for armed attacks against Israel.
(Palestinian Media Watch)
- Syria's Srebrenica: The UN Again Plays Accomplice to a Massacre - Editorial
The UN Security Council on Sunday condemned Syria's government for the killing of 108 people, mostly women and children, in Houla on Friday. But the condemnation was incomplete: It should have included the Security Council itself for providing the diplomatic cover that has let the Assad government continue its killing.
In April the UN turned to aiding and abetting the regime with its mission to send Kofi Annan to Damascus as a special "peace" envoy.
Annan, who as a former UN Secretary-General is perfectly trained for the role of accommodating dictators, brokered a cease-fire that he said Syria's Bashar Assad promised to obey. The UN is every bit as complicit in the Houla murders as it was when Dutch peacekeepers stood by and did nothing as the Serbs massacred thousands of Bosnians in Srebrenica in 1995.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also The Houla Massacre Marks a New Level of Violence - Ulrike Putz (Der Spiegel-Germany)
- Al-Qaeda and the Jihadists Join the Battle Against the Syrian Regime - Jacques Neriah
The battle over Syria has descended into sectarian strife led by extreme Salafists and other Islamic splinter organizations in a carefully orchestrated uprising coordinated and fueled by al-Qaeda operatives.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is no longer the sole force in the fight against Assad.
As in Egypt, in Syria the Muslim Brothers have succeeded in appropriating (some would call it hijacking) the revolt and ultimately becoming its backbone. Moreover, Muslim fighters from around the globe are coming to join the ranks in the battle against Assad. Yet the majority of Syrians do not identify with these radicals. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Israeli Analyst: The Iranians Are Laughing at the West
Prior to the talks on Tehran's nuclear program,
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed skepticism that Iran would be willing to give up its nuclear program. Israel has in the past accused Iran of exploiting the negotiations to buy time to continue advancing its nuclear program.
Prof. Ze'ev Maghen, Chair of the Department of Middle Eastern History at Bar-Ilan University, said the international community "continue to believe that they can talk the Iranians down, or that they can bribe them down, or that they can threaten them down - but they can't do any of those things."
"Looking at the history of these negotiations that goes back to the 1990s, it has been one long laughingstock. Basically, the ones who are laughing are the Iranians," Maghen said. He pointed out that, prior to every meeting, Iran's representatives state that, while they will be happy to meet with the international representatives, they have no intention of ending the enrichment of uranium. (Xinhua-China)
On Iran, We'll Probably Get Fooled Again - Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal)
Last week, the U.S. and its partners arrived in Baghdad for another round of talks with Tehran, confident they were at last about to turn the diplomatic corner.
- But this time, Iran did more than just reject demands to shut down its underground enrichment facility at Fordo and ship its near-bomb-grade uranium abroad. It also announced it would do precisely the opposite: install more centrifuges at Fordo, increase the rate of enrichment, and forbid any UN inspections of suspected military sites.
- The West's response? It has agreed to another round of talks next month in Moscow, thereby giving the Iranians the one thing they wanted from the negotiations, which is time.
- You can root around Google and find similar sequences of headlines from other years: high hopes for a negotiated breakthrough, followed by Iran's rejection of a deal, followed by the agreement to meet again, followed by - you get the point. How many times can the West allow itself to be fleeced in this bazaar?
- The larger question is why the U.S. continues to believe that there's a grand bargain to be struck with the mullahs, and that it lies just inches out of reach.
- As New York Times reporter John Kifner noted in 1981 about the U.S. Embassy seizure in Tehran: The mullahs believe they have a cause worth fighting for. They take our concessions as evidence of weakness, and our pragmatism as proof of corruption. They're not entirely mistaken.
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