Hackers impersonating journalists targeted Saudi critic in DC: report

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Hackers impersonating journalists including slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi reportedly attempted to deliver malicious software to a prominent Saudi dissident living in Washington D.C.

The Associated Press reports that hackers contacted Saudi-born author and analyst Ali AlAhmed using a number of fake identities, including Khashoggi’s, over a period of months with the intention of tricking AlAlhmed into clicking a link to a web page containing malware.

{mosads}One attempt in February of 2018 was addressed from a fake BBC News personality, “Tanya Stalin,” which AlAhmed told the AP was presented as an opportunity to discuss Saudi Arabia in an interview on the network.

The BBC confirmed to the AP that no one by that name worked at the network, and her purported title, “secretary to the editor-in-chief,” did not exist.

Another unanswered attempt reportedly used Khashoggi’s identity in November of 2017, months before the Post columnist would be killed inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

In a statement to the AP, the Post’s executive editor Marty Baron called the use of Khashoggi’s identity “contemptible.”

AlAhmed told the AP that he believes Saudi Arabia to be behind the hacking efforts, while a researcher at internet watchdog group Citizen Lab said the hacking attempts looked to be “closely linked to his political activities.”

“This was a targeted operation designed to gain access to his accounts and private communications,” Citizen Lab’s John Scott-Railton told the AP.

Saudi Arabia has faced international criticism in recent weeks for the killing of Khashoggi, which a top Saudi prosecutor now says was premeditated despite the Saudi government initially claiming Khashoggi left the consulate alive before asserting that he died during a fight that broke out unexpectedly.

President Trump said late in October that the U.S. is planning possible sanctions on Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s death.

Tags Donald Trump Hacking Jamal Khashoggi Saudi Arabia

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