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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Al Jazeera combats major cyberattacks

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The Qatar-based network was able to monitor and fend off all hacking attacks that took place this week. 

Qatar’s flagship media network Al Jazeera said it was subjected to a number of continuous cyberattacks this week that sought to “access, disrupt and control” some of its news platforms.

The attempts took place from Saturday to Tuesday, the network said in a statement, assuring that all of the attempts were monitored and successfully thwarted.

“Al Jazeera’s service provider was able to monitor and fend off all the hacking attacks and prevent them from achieving their goal,” the statement read.

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The country’s flagship broadcaster has condemned the attacks, stressing that it reserves the right to take legal action against those responsible.

It added that the majority of the attacks took place on Sunday, June 6, before the screening of Al Jazeera Arabic’s Ma Khafia Atham (What is Hidden is Greater) documentary series episode: ‘In the Grip of the Resistance.’

The episode detailed indirect negotiations between Palestine’s Hamas and Israel, which included a voice recording purportedly of an Israeli-held prisoner in Gaza.

“Al Jazeera condemns these cyberattacks and affirms its right to pursue legal recourse against the perpetrators,” the network’s statement said.

“Such attacks only increase Al Jazeera’s resolve to continue its bold and exemplary journalism,” it added.

 

Al Jazeera’s bold and persistent coverage of Middle Eastern politics—especially in the last decade— has been proven to be problematic for autocratic regimes in the region.

Launched in 1996, Al Jazeera rose to prominence for its support of pro-democracy movements and protesters. Long been hailed as a bastion of free speech in the Middle East, the broadcaster has always been a target for authoritarian regimes.

So much so that in the 2017 blockade, the list of 13 demands to end the GCC crisis included shutting down the global Qatar-based broadcaster.

As an entity, Al Jazeera and its journalists have faced several large-scale cyberattacks and hacking attempts aimed to disturb and access private information.

In the summer of 2020, Al Jazeera journalists were hacked using a private intelligence firm software in a major cyberattack allegedly ordered by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to a report by top digital cyber security experts from the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.

The NSO Group is an Israeli technology firm whose Pegasus spyware enables the remote surveillance of smartphones. Using Pegasus and other softwares, the phones of 36 Al Jazeera journalists and one Al Araby TV journalist were compromised. The other softwares, Monarchy and Sneaky Kestrel are connected to the Saudi and UAE government, respectively.

Last January, Saudi Arabia along with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain signed a declaration ending the Gulf Crisis and announced plans to restore full diplomatic ties with Qatar.

All countries have also opened their air, land, and sea borders, returning to a post-blockade flow, which led to a decrease in cyberattacks linked to the Saudi and Emirati governments.


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