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‘Announce Mbappe’: How Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United has left long-suffering supporter dreaming of happier days NEWSCASTLE: It has been a strange few days for Newcastle United, a football club that has been in the strange days business for as long as I can remember. I am still trying to process things, but at this…

‘Announce Mbappe’: How Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United has left long-suffering supporter dreaming of happier days

NEWSCASTLE: It has been a strange few days for Newcastle United, a football club that has been in the strange days business for as long as I can remember.

I am still trying to process things, but at this point all I can tell you is this: As a Newcastle fan of 35 years, I began the week negotiating the usual numbness associated with defeat and ended it supporting the richest football club in the world.

Would legendary Italian manager Antonio Conte like to live in the plush Newcastle suburb of Jesmond, or prefer to stay in the city center and imbibe the culture when he becomes manager? That would be a question for another day.

When the takeover came it was as swift as it was unexpected. At least as swift and unexpected as anything can be that has rumbled on for 18 months. To me the $410 million deal to buy the club by a consortium consisting of PCP Capital Partners, Reuben Brothers, and the Saudi Public Investment Fund was dead in the water, dragged into the icy depths of Premier League testing by issues of directorial separation and broadcasting rights.

So, imagine my surprise last week when it all suddenly went through and I found myself subconsciously writing the words, “announce (footballer Kylian) Mbappe” on my Twitter feed. What can I say? Football is an unpredictable mistress.

Of course, now is the time for dreaming if you are a Newcastle United fan. We dream better than most because we have had little else to do for the past 52 years (the last time we won a major trophy).

To the uninitiated, supporting this team is not really something you choose to do. It is a gift of birth or comes by dint of location. It sounds cliche, but just as the stadium dominates the skyline of the city, so too does the football club the hearts and minds of the people. What happens here matters, and in a part of England so often deprived, a successful football team has the potential to make a difference.

For years I wore our lack of success like some sort of badge of honor. Anybody can follow Real Madrid, but you try sitting in the pouring rain watching your distinctly average team struggle to break down even the weakest of opposition. Then come back and do it all again, home and away, year-on-year. It might well be the football equivalent of self-flagellation, but I am fiercely proud to support this club and to stand with the thousands who have done the same for decades without any real reward.

I do, incidentally, consider myself to be a lucky Newcastle fan. I was there for the first transformative takeover in 1992, when local businessman Sir John Hall rescued the club from years of austerity. Languishing in the old second division (now Championship), Hall’s first big appointment was Kevin Keegan as manager. I remember the delirious excitement of it all, even though I could not quite fathom what supporting a winning football team might actually mean.

What followed were four-and-a-half swashbuckling seasons where Newcastle went from near certainties for relegation (again) to title challengers in the English top flight. It was an era when we became known as The Entertainers, of “don’t worry if they score three ’cos we’ll score four,” and it was glorious.

Even post-Keegan there was Tino Asprilla’s cartwheeling hattrick against Barcelona and Sir Bobby Robson’s pure passion for the black and white cause, Champions League adventures and big money signings. We still did not win anything, of course, but at least it was fun.

Then came Sports Direct supremo Mike Ashley and a second buyout of the club that was … less exciting, shall we say?

In truth, I have felt a disconnection with my club for some time. But then 14 years of neglect will do that for you. The public relations gaffs, the questionable signings, and the sole aim of protecting an asset in the Premier League were just the finer details. When the end came, Newcastle United had almost been ground into dust, sandblasted by a lack of investment, care, and intent. A club whose major asset had always been its most loyal of supporters was seeing them leave in their droves, heartbreakingly cutting a cord that stretched generations.

But then, just as you think you are out, they pull you back in. A new set of custodians that make us, in balance-sheet terms at least at this point, the most powerful football club on the planet. I will level with you, it is discombobulating.

At this point we should probably discuss expectations. While supporters of other clubs often labor under the misapprehension that we expect to play for league titles and Champions League spots (an expectation that literally no Newcastle fan has, incidentally), I am willing to play it cool in terms of what we can achieve going forward.

Quite frankly, I imagine that constant success would be utterly overrated. Just stare into the half-glazed eyes of a Manchester City fan winning the Carabao Cup for the 18th time and tell me that is not true.

Anyway, football is not really about trophies, is it? It is about hope and pride. It is about the excitement that maybe this will be your day. That is a basic commodity Newcastle fans have been deprived of for 14 years.

It is worth remembering that the new owners have stated an intent to become part of the community at Newcastle. This is not just about success on the pitch, but also the long-term, wider regeneration of the area. In a place where more than 10,000 children live in poverty and that has one of the busiest food banks in England just two miles away from the stadium, the takeover of this football club has the power to change lives in more ways than one.

What happens next is anybody’s guess. But for the moment, Newcastle United supporters have earned the right to dream again. Maybe, just maybe, it is our turn to taste success?

Now, announce Mbappe.

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Middle East faced wave of cybersecurity threats since start of pandemic

GAZA CITY: Some hope has returned to Gaza resident Ayman Dahman upon learning that his apartment building, completely destroyed during Israeli airstrikes last May, would be reconstructed. Dahman has despaired over the past months, but Egyptian and Qatari statements regarding the acceleration of the reconstruction process have restored optimism. Dahman and his family of six lived…

GAZA CITY: Some hope has returned to Gaza resident Ayman Dahman upon learning that his apartment building, completely destroyed during Israeli airstrikes last May, would be reconstructed.

Dahman has despaired over the past months, but Egyptian and Qatari statements regarding the acceleration of the reconstruction process have restored optimism.

Dahman and his family of six lived in a five-story residential building inhabited by 10 families, in the north of Gaza City.

After its destruction, he moved to live with his son in a small two-room apartment. Once the war ended, he relocated to a rented house, which was paid for by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

UNRWA provided $1,500 in rent allowance and $500 for the purchase of basic home furnishings for each victim who lost his or her home during the war.

Dahman said that the Ministry of Public Works and Housing in Hamas-run Gaza contacted him a few days ago to prepare the engineering plans for the building in preparation for reconstruction.

On Oct. 19, the Egyptian Committee for the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip announced the launch of its first development project in Gaza: the construction of Al-Rasheed Street in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza.

At the same time, head of the Qatari Reconstruction Committee Mohammed Al-Emadi, currently in Gaza, announced that the coming days would witness an acceleration in the reconstruction process.

Hamas had received Egyptian promises during its leadership’s visit to Cairo earlier this month to speed up the pace of reconstruction and to provide trade and economic facilities at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

After the war, Egypt pledged a grant of $500 million as a contribution to reconstruction and sent engineering delegations to remove rubble in preparation.

Undersecretary of the Ministry of Public Works and Housing Naji Sarhan, said that the Egyptian grant projects include the construction of three residential cities in Beit Lahia; Jabalia, north of Gaza; and the Al-Zahra area, south of Gaza City.

According to the agreement, these three cities will include 2,000 housing units, giving priority to poor and low-income people. The construction of bridges and roads also will be supported.

Sarhan said that Egyptian officials promised — during meetings in Cairo with an official delegation from Gaza about two weeks ago — to start the reconstruction of the residential high-rises soon.

Egyptian crews had contributed to removing the rubble of damaged high-rises, as well as the construction of the first residential city in northern Gaza, he added.

The talks with the Egyptians, according to Sarhan, resulted in an agreement to operate the largest number of local contracting companies.

It was also agreed to import all the materials needed for reconstruction from the Rafah crossing to ensure the operation of local factories and to provide facilities for the movement of contractors and businessmen through the crossing.

The local authorities estimated the direct losses in the Gaza Strip during the war at $479 million.

Sarhan said that the direct losses are related to the destruction that afflicted the housing and infrastructure sector, as 1,500 housing units were destroyed, and 880 units were severely damaged. Hundreds of units were moderately and slightly damaged, with the value of reconstruction estimated at $145 million.

A great deal of damage was also caused to the infrastructure, including public buildings, roads, energy, communications and sanitation, with reconstruction estimated at $293 million.

Losses were also incurred in the sectors of economy, trade, health, education and agriculture, apart from indirect losses caused by the war.

Sarhan estimates that Gaza needs $2 billion in order to revive it after many years of wars and siege.

Palestinians see the latest Egyptian move as coming within a context of coordination with the US administration, which hopes to establish stability in Gaza.

A few days before the Hamas meetings in Cairo, Gaza reconstruction was discussed during talks between Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Hamas-affiliated columnist Majed Al-Zibda believes that the recent Egyptian meeting with Hamas is consistent with the vision of the US administration, which desires to contain Gaza and ensure stability there so to avoid any deterioration that could lead to new confrontations.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported earlier that Egypt and the US were pressuring Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to work on forming a new unity government with the aim of pushing forward long-term stability and the reconstruction of Gaza.

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Optimism in Gaza amid indications of reconstruction acceleration

RIYADH: Since the start of the pandemic, a wave of advanced threat campaigns targeting the Middle East have been discovered by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity firm. An APT is an attack campaign in which intruders establish an illicit, long-term presence on a network to mine highly sensitive data. The targets, which are carefully chosen and researched,…

Optimism in Gaza amid indications of reconstruction acceleration

RIYADH: Since the start of the pandemic, a wave of advanced threat campaigns targeting the Middle East have been discovered by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity firm.

An APT is an attack campaign in which intruders establish an illicit, long-term presence on a network to mine highly sensitive data. The targets, which are carefully chosen and researched, typically include large enterprises or government networks.

The region has always been a hotbed for such attacks due to geopolitical factors.

Kaspersky researchers, keeping a close eye on the region for APTs, worked on 68 investigative reports related to 29 cyber gangs actively targeting the Middle East since the start of the pandemic.

The researchers issued 49 threat intelligence reports due to investigations associated with cyberattacks on the UAE, which endured the highest number of reports for all Middle Eastern countries.

The second highest was Saudi Arabia with 39 reports, followed by Egypt with 30. Kuwait and Oman had 21 each, while Jordan had 20. Iraq, Qatar and Bahrain had fewer than 20 reports each.

APT attacks primarily targeted government agencies, followed by diplomatic institutions, the education sector, and telecommunication institutions. Other targeted sectors included finance, IT, healthcare, legal, military, and defense.

Some of the APT groups investigated were Oilrig, WIRTE, Lazarus, and Sofacy.

Fatemah Alharbi, a cybersecurity expert and assistant professor at Taibah University, told Arab News: “PowerShell-based malware are utilized by advanced cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructures in Saudi Arabia.”

She said these cybercriminals were sending phishing emails that contained malicious Microsoft Office files impersonating legitimate entities.

To pass the firewall and the email protection techniques, she explained, these rigged files were protected by passwords and compressed as zip files.

“This approach facilitates the mission of these cybercriminals to take full control of the file system and to compromise every single file there. This means they would be able to control the operating system, applications, and data. Assuming the attack is detected, an in-depth analysis and investigation on the file system is highly recommended as a quick response to recover the system and stop the attack.”

Referring to a report by Bitdefender, a cybersecurity technology company, Alharbi said: “Researchers shed light on a well-known APT cyber espionage campaign that targets mainly critical infrastructures in Saudi Arabia.This threat group is called Chafer APT (also known as APT39 or Remix Kitten). The report shows that these cybercriminals rely on social engineering to compromise victims in Saudi Arabia.

“Technically, the attack tricked victims to run a remote administration tool located in the downloads folder, similar to the RAT components used against Turkey and Kuwait back in 2014 and 2018, respectively.”

Despite these threats, Alharbi said the Kingdom’s cybersecurity resources had proven their ability to face such dangers.

“Saudi Arabia is ranked No.1 in the MENA region and Asia and No.2 globally according to the Global Cybersecurity Index issued by the UN’s specialized agency in information and communications technology, the International Telecommunication Union in 2021.”

This indexing evaluates countries periodically based on five main axes: Legal, technical, regulatory, capacity-building, and cooperation. The Kingdom scored advanced points in all of these axes, she said.

Amin Hasbini, head of the global research and analysis team for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa at Kaspersky, said: “Our cybersecurity experts have always been at the forefront of detecting and reporting the latest APT threats. Our reports are the product of their visibility into the cybersecurity landscape and promptly identify what poses a threat.

“We use these insights to, of course, alert the concerned organizations on time and provide them with the protection as well as intelligence needed against both known and unknown threats. As companies move towards digitization, especially due to the pandemic, it is more important now than ever before to know about the threats that are constantly evolving.”

According to a recent report from Kaspersky and VMWare, working remotely during the pandemic made Saudi employees vulnerable to cyberattacks.

In the VMWare report, a survey of 252 Saudis showed 84 percent of them said that cyberattacks had increased due to working from home.

Alharbi talked about methods to protect users from social engineering threats. “Recently, we see a rise in the number of cyberattacks that are based on social engineering. According to a recent report by PurpleSec, 98 percent of cyberattacks rely on social engineering. Cyber criminals prefer to use social engineering techniques that can expose a victim’s natural inclination to trust easily compared to implementing malwares or any other tools to hack systems.

“For that, organizations must strengthen and diversify their cybersecurity awareness tactics, such as publishing cybersecurity awareness content, in-class training, videos, simulations and tests,” she said.

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Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says

RIYADH: Since the start of the pandemic, a wave of advanced threat campaigns targeting the Middle East have been discovered by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity firm. An APT is an attack campaign in which intruders establish an illicit, long-term presence on a network to mine highly sensitive data. The targets, which are carefully chosen and researched,…

Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says

RIYADH: Since the start of the pandemic, a wave of advanced threat campaigns targeting the Middle East have been discovered by Kaspersky, a global cybersecurity firm.

An APT is an attack campaign in which intruders establish an illicit, long-term presence on a network to mine highly sensitive data. The targets, which are carefully chosen and researched, typically include large enterprises or government networks.

The region has always been a hotbed for such attacks due to geopolitical factors.

Kaspersky researchers, keeping a close eye on the region for APTs, worked on 68 investigative reports related to 29 cyber gangs actively targeting the Middle East since the start of the pandemic.

The researchers issued 49 threat intelligence reports due to investigations associated with cyberattacks on the UAE, which endured the highest number of reports for all Middle Eastern countries.

The second highest was Saudi Arabia with 39 reports, followed by Egypt with 30. Kuwait and Oman had 21 each, while Jordan had 20. Iraq, Qatar and Bahrain had fewer than 20 reports each.

APT attacks primarily targeted government agencies, followed by diplomatic institutions, the education sector, and telecommunication institutions. Other targeted sectors included finance, IT, healthcare, legal, military, and defense.

Some of the APT groups investigated were Oilrig, WIRTE, Lazarus, and Sofacy.

Fatemah Alharbi, a cybersecurity expert and assistant professor at Taibah University, told Arab News: “PowerShell-based malware are utilized by advanced cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructures in Saudi Arabia.”

She said these cybercriminals were sending phishing emails that contained malicious Microsoft Office files impersonating legitimate entities.

To pass the firewall and the email protection techniques, she explained, these rigged files were protected by passwords and compressed as zip files.

“This approach facilitates the mission of these cybercriminals to take full control of the file system and to compromise every single file there. This means they would be able to control the operating system, applications, and data. Assuming the attack is detected, an in-depth analysis and investigation on the file system is highly recommended as a quick response to recover the system and stop the attack.”

Referring to a report by Bitdefender, a cybersecurity technology company, Alharbi said: “Researchers shed light on a well-known APT cyber espionage campaign that targets mainly critical infrastructures in Saudi Arabia.This threat group is called Chafer APT (also known as APT39 or Remix Kitten). The report shows that these cybercriminals rely on social engineering to compromise victims in Saudi Arabia.

“Technically, the attack tricked victims to run a remote administration tool located in the downloads folder, similar to the RAT components used against Turkey and Kuwait back in 2014 and 2018, respectively.”

Despite these threats, Alharbi said the Kingdom’s cybersecurity resources had proven their ability to face such dangers.

“Saudi Arabia is ranked No.1 in the MENA region and Asia and No.2 globally according to the Global Cybersecurity Index issued by the UN’s specialized agency in information and communications technology, the International Telecommunication Union in 2021.”

This indexing evaluates countries periodically based on five main axes: Legal, technical, regulatory, capacity-building, and cooperation. The Kingdom scored advanced points in all of these axes, she said.

Amin Hasbini, head of the global research and analysis team for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa at Kaspersky, said: “Our cybersecurity experts have always been at the forefront of detecting and reporting the latest APT threats. Our reports are the product of their visibility into the cybersecurity landscape and promptly identify what poses a threat.

“We use these insights to, of course, alert the concerned organizations on time and provide them with the protection as well as intelligence needed against both known and unknown threats. As companies move towards digitization, especially due to the pandemic, it is more important now than ever before to know about the threats that are constantly evolving.”

According to a recent report from Kaspersky and VMWare, working remotely during the pandemic made Saudi employees vulnerable to cyberattacks.

In the VMWare report, a survey of 252 Saudis showed 84 percent of them said that cyberattacks had increased due to working from home.

Alharbi talked about methods to protect users from social engineering threats. “Recently, we see a rise in the number of cyberattacks that are based on social engineering. According to a recent report by PurpleSec, 98 percent of cyberattacks rely on social engineering. Cyber criminals prefer to use social engineering techniques that can expose a victim’s natural inclination to trust easily compared to implementing malwares or any other tools to hack systems.

“For that, organizations must strengthen and diversify their cybersecurity awareness tactics, such as publishing cybersecurity awareness content, in-class training, videos, simulations and tests,” she said.

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