February 25, 2024

Chinese Hackers Plan To Wreak Havoc In The US, Warns The FBI

Iranian state-sponsored hackers spread deep fake news by infiltrating streaming services in the United Arab Emirates. The fake news revolved around the ongoing war in Gaza.

The researchers at Microsoft confirmed the hacking exploits. A blog post by Microsoft reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards were behind the hack. This group is a branch of the Iranian armed forces.

The hackers run fake news on UAE streaming platforms. They spread the fake news using an AI-generated news broadcast known as “For Humanity.”

Iranian Hackers Infiltrate UAE Streaming Services

The fake broadcast had a fake news anchor airing unverified images of seemingly what is happening in Gaza. The images portrayed Palestinians being injured and killed because of the Israeli military operations.

Microsoft attributed the hack to a group known as Cotton Sandstorm. The group published the details of the hack in Telegram, showing how they infiltrated three online streaming services. They also disrupted some news channels with fake news.

According to a local publication, one of the streaming platforms affected by the hacking exploit is HK1RBOXX. Hackers infiltrated this set-top box in December, with the hackers saying they had no choice but to conduct the attack. An AI-generated anchor also featured footage and a ticker of the people wounded and killed in Gaza.

Microsoft said,

This marked the first Iranian influence operation Microsoft has detected where AI played a key component in its messaging and is one example of the fast and significant expansion in the scope of Iranian operations since the start of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The tech giant further said some reports indicated the attack also caused disruptions in Canada and the UK. Some channels serving this region were affected even though they were not hacked directly.

The report by Microsoft said that hacking activities conducted by Iranian threat actors increased within the first week of the war to reach 14. Additionally, operations conducted by cybercriminals also increased from around one operation each month in 2021 to 11 in October 2023.

Generative AI Used In Hacking Attacks

Generative AI has had breakthroughs across many industries. However, this immersive technology is now posing a danger due to its likelihood of being used to conduct hacking attacks.

Generative AI is a technology to create text, voice, or images that can appear convincing and real. The potential of this technology to create fake content has triggered a rise in deep fake content on online platforms. For instance, generative AI has been used to create a fake voice of US President, Joe Biden in the past.

Experts are now fearing the threat posed by generative AI, as seen in the recent hack on UAE streaming services to broadcast fake news. However, it is not the first time that Iranian hackers have resulted in fake broadcasts to conduct their campaigns.

During the 2020 election, Iran used a similar campaign by sending intimidating emails to voters. At the time, the hackers manipulated the emails to make it appear as if a far-right group sent them. The hackers were also culpable of spreading disinformation on the voting infrastructure.

Microsoft has also said that during the 2024 US presidential election, these hackers might also try and launch a similar campaign and impersonate extremists. Such actions could compromise the integrity of US elections.

Microsoft has also said that Iranian state-sponsored hackers have released more cyber-attacks and online exploits seeking to manipulate the events around the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. Some of the tactics employed by the hackers extend beyond using generative AI to control the narrative to leaking personal data and attacking pro-Israel targets.


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