The NSA has infiltrated a network of banks that use the SWIFT transfer system and were actively targeting several mostly Qatar-based banks and institutions, including registered charity the Qatar Foundation. The fifth release from the hacking outfit Shadow Brokers shows that the NSA used exploits in Windows software in order to gain access to databases of SWIFT clients and track transfers between banks.
Most of the banks that were being tracked are based in Qatar according to a excel spreadsheet of active server implants. The small Arab country has long been accused of harbouring financiers of terrorism, suggesting that the aim of the project was to locate funding channels of terrorists in the Middle-East. However, institutions from both Palestine and Yemen are also listed as ‘banks of interest’ that were victims of snooping – regions that are embroiled in insurgencies against US-allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Belgium-based SWIFT claim that the main network has not been accessed, instead it seems that the NSA managed to infiltrate a third party that administrate SWIFT on behalf of clients. The company that was victim to the breach was EastNets, a ‘global leading provider of compliance, payment and cloud solutions and services with offices across Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East’, according to their website.
See below a list of infiltrated servers, and the banks to which they belong.
As you can see, Qatar Foundation servers with hostnames ‘qfqf-srv1’, ‘qfqf-srv2’ and ‘qfqf-srv3’ were successfully targeted.
The founder of the charity was former Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, a strong US ally who oversaw the formation of two US military bases in Qatar during his time as leader and reportedly played a significant role in US negotiations with the Taliban. This is the second time that the NSA have been caught red-handed snooping on a US ally, after Wikileaks exposed their surveillance of German corporations and politicians in their BND-NSA Inquiry Exhibits release back in December 2016.
It is currently unknown why the Qatar Foundation was flagged as an institution of interest. Their stated aim on their website is to develop Qatar from a ‘carbon economy into a knowledge economy’. They specialise in the development of medical and research infrastructure in the Middle-East, having established both the Qatar Science & Technology Park and the Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, which has been lauded for its work surrounding cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Michelle Obama visited the organisation back in November 2015 and met with founder Sheikha Moza bint Nasser in order to discuss their work in regards to primary education for girls.
The Qatar Foundation have not responded to our emails requesting a comment on the issue.
Leak of Nations | ShadowBrokers | NSA Snooping