Qatar scrambles to contain political fallout after hack attack

Qatar’s Emir at Wednesday’s military graduation ceremony. Credit: QNA

Officials in Qatar have launched an investigation into this week’s hacking of its official news agency.

QNA published false reports attributed to the Emir and Foreign Minister on Wednesday night.

The remarks expressed support for Israel and Iran and criticized key Qatar allies such as Saudi Arabia and the US.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Abraham Puthoor/Flickr

Officials in Doha have denied the veracity of all the statements. They also temporarily suspended QNA’s online services as a precautionary measure.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the attack a “shameful cybercrime” that “was instigated and perpetrated with malicious intent.”

It added in a statement that the government is working to track down and prosecute whoever was behind the breach, which caused widespread confusion in the GCC due to the inflammatory nature of the comments.

Political fallout

Many took the remarks at face value, and there have been heated debates on social media about them.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia even temporarily blocked digital access to Al Jazeera inside their countries, the network confirmed.

Qatar has been trying to contain the political fallout of the false reports.

But yesterday, officials said they were “surprised” that some media outlets continue to publish and comment on the fake news, even though the country called them baseless.

Some are saying Gulf tensions have not been this high since 2014. At that time, Saudi, the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Doha for political reasons.

The issue was eventually resolved, and fences have been on the mend since then.

Security

Politics aside, many security experts are urging Qatar to boost security to protect against future attacks.

In a statement to Doha News, Donna Mayers, senior associate at law firm Pinsent Masons Qatar, said “more needs to be done” in this regard across the GCC, despite shrinking budgets.

Photo for illustrative purposes only. Credit: Pixabay

She added:

“Cybercrime poses an increasing threat, not only to individual businesses but also to a country’s national security and critical infrastructure in sectors such as energy, banking, health and ICT.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but we urge companies to prepare for the worst-case scenario by implementing processes and plans to deal with this and using simulated attacks to educate and prepare their workforce.”

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