Russia used Iranian hacker infrastructure and tools for espionage

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a meeting in Armenia in early October. Photo: Mikhail Metzel/TASS via Getty Images

U.S. and U.K. intelligence agencies confirmed Monday that the Russian espionage hacker group Turla used tools and infrastructure from Iranian espionage group OilRig, likely without the Iranian group's knowledge.

Why it matters: Moves like this can sometimes confound efforts to understand who exactly has spied on what. And, by monitoring malware implanted by Iran, Turla saved itself the effort of hacking targets directly.

  • The backdrop: OilRig traditionally spies on Middle Eastern targets. Turla, whose operations are more global in nature, is only known by the NSA and NCSC to have used OilRig malware when spying on Middle Eastern targets.

Details: An investigation by the NSA and the U.K.'s lead cybersecurity intelligence agency details that malware that Turla has used since at least 2017 was "very likely Iranian in origin," according to a report released by the U.K.'s National Cyber Security Centre.

  • OilRig was "almost certainly not aware of, or complicit with, Turla’s use of their implants," according to the report.
  • More than just re-appropriating malware, it appears Turla piggy-backed on OilRig's control infrastructure and even used the malware implanted by the OilRig hackers to do its own espionage.
  • Turla's use of OilRig hacking infrastructure was first reported by Symantec in June.
  • The NSA and NCSC are the first to note that the malware tools Nautilus and Neuron, once thought to be from Turla, are actually from Iran.

The bottom line: In one fell swoop, the Western allies have left egg on the faces of both Iran and Russia, two key rivals in the cyber domain.

Additional Stories

The next decade of smart city growth

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Transportation and energy upgrades are expected to be the big drivers of smart city spending over the next decade.

Why it matters: Global spending on smart city projects will reach nearly $124 billion this year, an 18% increase over 2019, according to IDC, a market research firm.

America's dwindling executions

The Trump administration wants to reboot federal executions, pointing to a 16-year lapse, but Pew Research reports the government has only executed three people since 1963.

The big picture: Nearly all executions in the U.S. are done by states. Even those have been steadily dropping for two decades, per the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) — marking a downward trend for all executions in the country.

Data: Pew Research Center, Death Penalty Information Center; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Top NSC official may be moved after "Anonymous" rumor fallout

President Trump at the Daytona 500. (Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Top Trump administration officials are in discussions to reassign deputy national security adviser Victoria Coates to the Department of Energy from the National Security Council, per two sources familiar with the planning.

Why it matters: Coates' working relationship with National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, who elevated her to the deputy role only months ago, has strained amid an effort by some people inside the administration to tag her as "Anonymous" — a charge she has vehemently denied to colleagues.

Jeff Bezos commits $10 billion to back climate change research with new "Earth Fund"

Bezos at Amazon Smbhav in New Delhi on Jan. 15. Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced the launch of his "Earth Fund" on Monday via Instagram to fund climate change research and awareness.

What he's saying: Bezos says he's initially committing $10 billion to fund "scientists, activists, and NGOS" that are working on environmental preservation and protection efforts.

Egg freezing frees women from their biological clocks but isn't foolproof

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A lucrative industry for egg freezing has sprouted in the past 10 years, allowing women to postpone pregnancy. Experts say easy access to the procedure isn't translating into more women using the eggs they put on ice.

The big picture: Nearly 90% of women said they were happy they froze their eggs, regardless of whether they will ultimately get used, according to FertilityIQ, an educational and reviewing site for fertility clinics.

What we know: Mississippi braces for intense flooding as Pearl River swells

Floodwaters are slowly on the rise in areas around the Pearl River. Photo: City of Jackson/Twitter

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has declared a state of emergency as authorities brace for "historic" floods, with days of rain expected, as the Pearl River continues to swell in and around the state capital, Jackson.

What's happening: Evacuations have already begun, and the river isn't expected to crest until Monday. Reeves described the situation as precarious. "We expect water to stay in the area for 2-3 days, with rain throughout the week," he tweeted.

Assault weapons ban dies in Virginia Senate despite Democratic control

Gun-rights ralliers at a protest outside the Virginia Capitol Building in January. Photo ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images.

An assault weapons ban died in the Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday despite a Democratic majority in the assembly, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Democrats flipped the Virginia House and Senate last year after campaigning hard on gun control. The assault weapons bill would have banned future transfers and sales of all assault weapons in the state.

What we know: Deadly Storm Dennis whips at England, Wales and Ireland

Photo: OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images.

At least two deaths are being attributed to Storm Dennis on Monday as it continues to strike at parts of England, Wales and Ireland, per AccuWeather.

The big picture: Dennis is the second-strongest nontropical storm ever recorded in the North Atlantic Ocean. Its hurricane-force winds and heavy rains have caused widespread flooding across the United Kingdom. The army has been deployed in the U.K. to help with flood relief.

Read more at Axios
© Copyright Axios 2020