Hackers from Iran to Ukraine had a busy week

Hackers from Iran to Ukraine had a busy week

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On October 8, an Iranian state TV broadcast by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was interrupted for a few seconds by an unauthorized message showing a crosshair over the leader’s face and images of four women who died in Iran in the past month. Voices chanted “women, life, freedom” while text on the screen urged viewers to “stand up and join us”. Another line read: “The blood of our youth drips from your grasp.” The emergency message shown on TV screens across the country was the result of a hack.

Since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died under suspicious circumstances days after being detained by Iran’s morality police for the way she wore her hijab, the women of the Kurdish regions of Iran have taken to the streets to protest against the country’s repressive laws. And they have met with a brutal response. According to the non-profit organization Iran Human Rights, over 150 people have died during the protests. Yet the voices of the Iranian people continue to be heard – women burn their hijabs in front of the police and oil workers go on strike. But one method of protest is unique to the 21st century: hacking a news network, then uploading the results to social media.

The Iranian state television hack was one of many recent high-profile digital attacks. In October alone, crypto exchange Binance reported that its network was hacked for $570 million, malware apps “may have” stolen over one million Meta customer passwords, and pro-Russian hacker groups were able to temporarily knock some US airport websites offline.

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Cybersecurity experts agree that it was a particularly busy week for hackers, hacked organizations and the companies that patched the holes. But the public perception of cyber security is limited to what makes the headlines – many others are happening all the time.

“There were a number of public events, but organizations are being hacked across the globe at an alarming rate,” said Nick Biasini, head of outreach at Cisco Talos, a threat intelligence research team.

Citing the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine and the civil unrest in Iran, Tiago Henriques, head of research at the Coalition, said it was a volatile time in the world. The recent high-profile hackings, Henriques said, “are best understood in the context of escalating geopolitical conflicts.” A pro-Ukrainian hacker group also hacked Russian TV networks to broadcast an anti-war message to multiple channels.

There is no indication that the hacks will slow down, even if you stop reading about them. Small revolutionary forces and powerful authoritarian governments alike see hacking as an important way to send a message, whether it’s spreading dissent or crushing it.

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