UAE-Based Hackers Responsible for Qatar's Gulf Crisis

The hack on Qatari state and social media websites that has resulted in a diplomatic rift in the Persian Gulf was carried out by hackers located in the United Arab Emirates, the nation said.

Beginning in April, hackers were able to compromise several official websites, including the Qatar News Agency network, and then used the access to post a series of false reports in late May. Those reports were crafted to paint Qatar as a supporter of countries that fund terrorism, including a fake quote from Qatar’s leader, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, calling for improved relations with Iran and support for Hamas.

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE picked up the story, and despite official Qatari denials of the fake news, severed relations with Qatar, sparking a diplomatic crisis with the potential for wide-ranging consequences.

Now, some are saying the UAE masterminded the situation.

"We are sure and know that...the beneficiary [of the hacking] is in the UAE," said chief of the Qatari Interior Ministry, Lt. Col. Ali Mohammed Al Muhannadi, in discussing the results of an investigation into the hacking incident.

He stopped short of saying that the UAE government was responsible, but the Washington Post cited US intelligence officers as confirming that the UAE did indeed coordinate the hacks.

UAE ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said via Twitter that "UAE had no role whatsoever in the alleged hacking... What is true is Qatar's behavior. Funding, supporting, and enabling extremists from the Taliban to Hamas & Qadafi." He added that Qatar is "undermining the stability of its neighbors."

As a result of the he-said/she-said, Qatar has been blockaded and given a list of demands, which include compliance with the Riyadh Agreement of 2013 within the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) and ceasing involvement in the affairs of other states.  Some of the more extreme demands, like closing down Al-Jazeera, the only independent news outlet in the region, have been dropped.

Qatar hosts a large military base that serves as regional headquarters for US air operations in Iraq and Syria, but President Trump has aligned with the Saudis and other nations in dismissing Qatar’s claims that the fake news stories contained no truth. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the other hand has urged a more measured approach to the situation. 

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