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ISS: Iran intelligence attempted to access University of Tartu e-mail accounts

An attempt has been made to gain access to University of Tartu email accounts with phishing emails as part of a campaign probably organized at the instructions of the government of Iran

PHOTO: Sander Ilvest

An attempt has been made to gain access to University of Tartu email accounts with phishing emails as part of a campaign probably organized at the instructions of the government of Iran, the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) says in its annual review published on Tuesday.

A phishing email was used to try to gain access to some email accounts connected to the University of Tartu. This was probably a campaign organized at the behest of the Iranian government by an actor also known as the Silent Librarian or the Mabna Institute.

“Thanks to its proficiency, the University of Tartu was able to identify the attack and prevent any major damage,” the annual review says.

The ISS said that in 2019, malware hidden in fake emails was used to access the data of many Estonian individuals and institutions. While phishing scams pose a threat to the general public, attempts by foreign intelligence services have a narrower range of persons of interest: diplomats, politicians, scientists in certain fields, people involved in military and national security – in other words, anyone who could have access to information that is of interest to the special services. In 2019, the private email accounts of such individuals continued to be targeted.

Security service: Estonia needs list of accredited lobbyists

Estonia should draw up a list of accredited lobbyists to help prevent corruption, the Internal Security Service (ISS) says in its annual review published on Tuesday. 

The annual review says that the ISS monitors covert and inappropriate lobbying of top officials that may have a corrupt motive or promote narrow private interests.

“We must recognize lobbying that seeks regulations, decisions or actions that are favorable to the lobbyist or stakeholders, that have a long-term or large-scale impact on the lobbyist’s interests or that affect many target groups and individuals. The more hidden and stronger the influence of lobbying, the opaquer the decision-making process and the more incomprehensible the result of lobbying and decision-making, the more reason there is to suspect corruption,” the ISS says. 

The annual review says that greater transparency will help to curb hidden and inappropriate lobbying. For example, the European Parliament has compiled a list of thousands of accredited lobbyists. A similar list could be adopted in Estonia.

Regulated lobbying and the resulting increase in transparency help to reinforce the image of fair policymaking. As long as there is no legal regulation of lobbying, the behavior of lobbyists, former officials, should be regulated by codes of ethics and self-regulation to prevent the threat of corruption being realized, the ISS believes.

Numbers of people from countries at risk of terrorism growing in Estonia

An increasing number of individuals from countries considered to be at risk of terrorism are applying for Estonian residency permits, visas and e-residency, the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) says in its annual review published on Tuesday.

Over the past three years, the number of Estonian residents coming from these countries has more than doubled, the rate of increase being 112 percent. In 2019, Estonia received 20,629 visa applications from citizens of at-risk countries, representing an increase of 187 percent over the past three years.

“The noticeable growth of domestic Islamic communities piques the interest of conservative and radical Islamic organizations in Estonia. Larger communities may inevitably lead to societal isolation and reduced openness. A community’s inward focus reduces the likelihood of integration and may increase radicalization. The non-acceptance of Estonian customs may be followed by a violent enforcement of its own world view,” the annual review says.

It says that in order to address segregation and concentration of immigrants, potential security threats have to be taken into consideration when drafting migration, integration, employment and education policies. 

The ISS considers high-risk countries to be those that have combat units of or areas controlled by Islamist terrorist organizations, an Islamist political system or widespread Islamic fundamentalism.

Source: Postimees News

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