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Pak FM in Riyadh to defuse Saudi-Iran tensions

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Shah Mahmood Qureshi

Islamabad, Dec 12 Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi held talks with his Saudi counterpart in Riyadh in what appears to be a visit linked to Islamabad’s efforts to seek de-escalation in rising tensions in the Persian Gulf region.

A statement issued by the Foreign Office here said that Qureshi on Wednesday met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, during which regional and international issues were discussed, reports The Express Tribune.

A separate statement issued by the Saudi official news agency said the foreign ministers reviewed bilateral relations between the two “brotherly countries” and ways of enhancing them in all fields.

Although no further details were available, official sources told The Express Tribune that the visit was part of ongoing efforts by Pakistan to defuse tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The two countries are at loggerheads since Saudi oil facilities came under missile attacks in September. Saudi Arabia and the US blamed Iran for the attack.

Tehran, however, denied the allegations.

Pakistan has since been making efforts to facilitate dialogue between the two countries. Prime Minister Imran Khan made a stopover in Saudi Arabia on his way to the annual UN General Assembly session in New York in September to meet Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

In New York, he held meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to defuse tensions between Tehran and Riyadh.

The efforts in September were followed by a flurry of visits undertaken by Pakistani civil and military leadership both to Riyadh and Tehran.

All such diplomatic maneouvers, observers believed, were aimed at avoiding any conflict in the Persian Gulf region.

Pakistan enjoys close strategic ties with Saudi Arabia but at the same time considers its relationship with Iran important given its proximity as well as other factors.

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Cybercriminals can hack e-bikes to eavesdrop on riders

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New York: As governments including in India plan more e-bikes on roads to help tackle traffic congestion, like any Internet-connected device, hackers can cause a series of attacks in e-scooters, including eavesdropping on users and even spoof GPS systems to direct riders to unintended locations, warn researchers including some of Indian-origin.

Vendors of Micromobility vehicles can also suffer denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and data leaks, said researchers from University of Texas at San Antonio.

“We have identified and outlined a variety of weak points or attack surfaces in the current ride-sharing, or micromobility, ecosystem that could potentially be exploited by malicious adversaries right from inferring the riders’ private data to causing economic losses to service providers and remotely controlling the vehicles’ behaviour and operation,” said Jadliwala.

The micromobility e-scooter analysis was conducted by Jadliwala alongside graduate students Nisha Vinayaga-Sureshkanth, Raveen Wijewickrama and post-doctoral fellow Anindya Maiti.

The global e-Bike market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.01 per cent to reach $38.6 billion by 2025 from an estimated $21.1 billion in 2018, according to marketsandmarkets research firm.

Computer science experts at the university have published the first review of the security and privacy risks posed by e-scooters and their related software services and applications.

According to the review, to appear in the proceedings of the 2nd ACM Workshop on Automotive and Aerial Vehicle Security (AutoSec 2020), hackers can cause a series of attacks.

Some e-scooter models communicate with the rider’s smartphone over a Bluetooth Low Energy channel.

Someone with malicious intent could eavesdrop on these wireless channels and listen to data exchanges between the scooter and riders’ smartphone app by means of easily and cheaply accessible hardware and software tools such as Ubertooth and WireShark.

Those who sign up to use e-scooters also offer up a great deal of personal and sensitive data beyond just billing information.

According to the study, providers automatically collect other analytics, such as location and individual vehicle information.

This data can be pieced together to generate an individual profile that can even include a rider’s preferred route, personal interests, and home and work locations.

“Cities are experiencing explosive population growth. Micromobility promises to transport people in a more sustainable, faster and economical fashion,” said Jadliwala.

To ensure that this industry stays viable, companies should think not only about rider and pedestrian safety but also how to protect consumers and themselves from significant cybersecurity and privacy threats enabled by this new technology,” the authors noted.

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Plane carrying 83 crashes in Taliban-held Afghanistan area

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Kabul: A Boeing jet belonging to state-owned Ariana Afghan Airlines caught fire and crashed in central Ghazni province in Afghanistan on Monday, a media report quoted officials.

The passenger plane had 83 people on board when it crashed due to technical reasons, Mail Online report quoted officials on the incident. There was no information as yet on the casualties.

Arif Noori, a spokesman for provincial governor’s office in Ghazni city, said: “A Boeing plane belonging to the Ariana Afghan Airline crashed in Sado Khel area of Deh Yak district of Ghazni province around 1.10pm (local time).”

The crash site was around around 130km south west of Kabul and reported to be under Taliban control.

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Iraqi PM condemns rocket attack on US embassy in Baghdad

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Adel Abdul-Mahdi

Baghdad, Jan 27: The Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Sunday condemned the rocket attack on the US embassy in the Green Zone in central Baghdad.

An attack occurred once again against a foreign diplomatic mission when Katyusha rockets landed inside the campus of the US embassy, said a statement by Abdul Mahdi on his official Twitter Page, the Xinhua news agency reported.

“We denounce the continuation of these condemned and outlaw acts that weaken the state and undermine its sovereignty,” the statement said.

Abdul Mahdi, commander-in-chief of the Iraqi forces, said that he has ordered the Iraqi forces to deploy and look for the attackers, as well as launching an investigation into the incident, in order to arrest those who fired these rockets, according to the statement.

“The continuation of such irresponsible act, which makes the entire country to bear its consequences and serious repercussions, would lead to damage the country’s higher interests and its relations with its friends, which may turn Iraq to a battlefield,” the statement added.

Abdul Mahdi also confirmed that his government is “committed to protecting all diplomatic missions and take all necessary measures in accordance with the law.”

Abdul Mahdi statement came after an Interior Ministry official said that four Katyusha rockets landed in the evening near the US embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Later on, a statement by the media office affiliated with the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said that five rockets hit the Green Zone, without giving further details.

The heavily fortified Green Zone has been frequently targeted by insurgents’ mortar and rocket attacks. The roughly 10 square km zone is located on the west bank of the Tigris River, which bisects the Iraqi capital.

On Friday, the Iraqi prominent Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for a scheduled withdrawal of US troops from Iraq through peaceful means.

The Iraqi parliament passed a resolution requiring the government to end the presence of foreign forces in Iraq on January 5, two days after a US drone strike on a convoy at Baghdad airport, which killed Qassem Soleimani, former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces.

Over 5,000 US troops have been deployed in Iraq to support the Iraqi forces in the battles against the Islamic State militants, mainly providing training and advising to the Iraqi forces.

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