Yemen civil war playing out online, researchers say

Aspects of the civil war in Yemen have manifested online, with Houthi rebels taking control over the country’s main internet service provider and the government responding with a new service of its own, according to a newly released report.

Cybersecurity firm Recorded Future said in research published Wednesday that the Houthi rebels had taken over the country’s main internet service, YemenNet, in 2014 and with it control of the .ye domain, the country’s equivalent of .com.

The report found that the Houthi rebels have “taken steps to shut off internet access entirely across” their purview of YemenNet, including shutdowns of the internet and disabling access to the service in some areas.

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The Hadi government, which asserts that it constitutes the official Yemeni government, established a new internet service called AdenNet in June of this year, with funding from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), assistance from Saudi Telecom and technology from the Chinese firm Hauwei, which has faced restrictions in the U.S. over national security concerns.

The Recorded Future report also found that the percentage of the population that uses the internet had increased from 2014 to 2016, but has since stayed stagnant.

“The ongoing conflict has stunted the assignment of internet space, as well as the ability of citizens to access the internet,” the report states.

Researchers also found evidence that Yemenis use tools to “circumvent either government’s internet controls in order to get online.”

At the same time, Recorded Future found nearly 1,000 host domains running a cryptocurrency mining service known as Coinhive.

“Recorded Future assesses with medium confidence that the Houthi-led government is attempting to use Coinhive to generate alt-currency for the regime,” the report reads.

The civil war has plagued Yemen since 2015, when the Houthi rebels took over the capital.

The U.S. offers military support to those fighting the rebels. However, the Senate on Wednesday easily passed a resolution to end American military support for the Saudi-led campaign in the conflict, after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.