Threat Intelligence

Report: Intel officials now believe UAE masterminded hack of Qatari news agency


The May 2017 hack of Qatar's state news agency, an incident seemingly designed to strain relations among Arab nations, was reportedly perpetrated by the United Arab Emirates government, according to the Washington Post, citing U.S. intelligence officials.

Qatar and U.S. officials had previously informed news outlets that hackers allegedly infiltrated a Qatari government news site's systems and planted a falsified report containing fabricated statements, purportedly from Qatar's current emir, that praised Iran and Israel while maligning U.S. President Donald Trump.

According to the Post, intel officials now believe, based on newly analyzed information, that members of the UAE government allegedly conspired to execute the hack, and even discussed the impending cyberattack the day before the incendiary fake story appeared. Officials reportedly do not know if the hack was conducted by the UAE itself or by paid third parties.

Initial reports had previously stated that officials suspected Russia of playing a hand in the cyber intrusion. 

In early June, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia resolved to cut off or downgrade relations with Qatar, after accusing the small gulf nation of financing terrorist operations. The fake Qatari news report appears to have only exacerbated this diplomatic crisis, yet if the latest findings are proven true, the UAE's credibility in this matter would seemingly take a sizable hit.

UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba has claimed the latest report is false, denying that his country played any role in the reported cyberattack, the Post stated. "What is true is Qatar's behavior. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas and Qadafi," said al-Otaiba in a statement. Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash similarly denied that his nation was behind the cyberattack.

Reuters also quoted a Qatar government statement that said the newest Post report "unequivocally proves that this hacking crime took place."

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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