Officials of Qatar’s Interior Ministry said they have evidence to prove the cyberattack on the country’s official media originated from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Qatar’s state news agency and its affiliated social media accounts were hacked in May amid a spike in traffic from one of the three neighbouring Gulf states that cut ties with Qatar after the incident.
Investigators also reportedly traced the IP (internet protocol) address linked to the hacking to the UAE.
Speaking at a press conference at MoI Headquarters, Captain Othman Salem al-Hammoud, Assistant Director of MoI Information Security Department, said that on April 22 hackers were able to exploit a vulnerability in the system to infiltrate and install malicious software.
“On May 23, the QNA website saw an unusual hike in the number of visits, as many as 45 visits in just 15 minutes, during 23:45-00:01. Then at 00:01, the attack started and the fabricated news attributing false statements to His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani were published. Again for 15 minutes, the website experienced a surge in the number of visits — 41 visits — originating from the UAE in particular. The hike in the number of visits showed the hackers’ eagerness to make sure that the planted news had been circulated. Besides, all social media platforms of QNA were hacked for the same purpose (posting fake news).”
Captain al-Hammoud said the hack was contained as early as 3am on the same day, and by 7pm full control of the QNA website and its social media platforms was regained. The cyberattacks lasted for about three hours, from late at night on May 24 to the early hours of May 25.
Due to ties being cut, Qatar has not been able to confirm more details about the nationality and identity of the attackers in the neighboring Gulf states.
“The only thing we are sure of is that… the anticipation and the benefit from this hacking was in the United Arab Emirates,” said Lt. Ali Mohammed al-Mohannadi, head of the Qatari investigation team.
He said some countries have assisted Qatar in the investigation, but declined to elaborate.