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llustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A hacker group believed to carry out some of the Iranian government's destructive attacks is focusing on makers of industrial control systems, according to a presentation a Microsoft employee will give at Thursday's CyberWarCon detailed in a new Wired article.

Why it matters: The group, nicknamed APT 33, Refined Kitten and Elfin, has been known to use malware to damage computer systems in the past, leading the Microsoft researcher presenting the talk on Thursday, Ned Moran, to speculate that the hackers may be laying the groundwork for future destructive attacks on industrial systems.

To be clear: The group has also been associated with traditional, fact-finding and source producing espionage as well. It's tough to guess the endgame of most hackers from their opening moves.

Industrial control systems, as the name implies, are the computerized systems that interface with pumps, fans and robots carrying out industrial tasks.

What they found: Moran told Wired that APT 33 has changed its tactics in recent months. In the past, the group had hacked systems by guessing passwords of employees at tens of thousands of different organizations at a time, but has now shifted to focusing on more employees at each of a smaller number—roughly 2,000—targets.

  • Around half the top 25 targets were makers or maintainers of industrial systems.

APT 33 has a history of attacking aerospace and oil operations, as well as politicians, academics and the water source for a U.S. military facility.

  • It has been connected to two strains of hard drive erasing "wiper" malware known: ShapeShift and Shamoon. Shamoon has been used in some of the most destructive cyber attacks in history, including an attack on Saudi Aramco.

Go deeper: Infamous Shamoon malware re-emerges.

Go deeper

Perfect storm brewing for extreme politicians

Data: Axios research; Table: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Redistricting and a flood of departing incumbents are paving the way for more extreme candidates in this year's midterm elections.

Driving the news: At least 19 House districts in 12 states are primed to attract such candidates — hard partisans running in strongly partisan districts — according to an Axios analysis of districts as measured by the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI).

Updated 3 hours ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Updated 4 hours ago - Technology

Mayors see cryptocurrency as a way to address income inequality

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors' meeting in D.C. this week, there's buzz around the idea of giving cryptocurrency accounts to low-income people.

Why it matters: Cities have been experimenting with newfangled ways to address income inequality — like guaranteed income programs — and the latest wave of trials could involve paying benefits or dividends in bitcoin, stablecoin or other digital currencies.