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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani delivers a speech during a ceremony to mark the 39th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, at Azadi Square in Tehran, Iran on February 11, 2018. Anadolu Agency / Getty

A believed-Iranian hacking group nicknamed Chafer that previously focused on domestic surveillance has been turned loose on the international air transport industry, according to a new report from Symantec.

The bottom line: Iran has other options in its cyber offensive, including more sophisticated government-lead groups. But with this rapid expansion of Chafer's portfolio, "[m]ore then likely, their mandate will broaden in the next few years," said Symantec Technical Director Vikram Thakur.

The details: Chafer, first identified in 2015 by Symantec, appears to date back to 2014, said Thakur. But Chafer's relatively bare-bones attacks were largely focused on targets within Iranian borders. In 2017, the group pivoted its attention to espionage in Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.A.E.

The intrigue: Thakur believes this is an escalation of responsibilities for the group, which he stressed was not particularly sophisticated. Chafer's victims appear to be centered around airlines and their equipment and software providers. Chafer also attacked telecom firms with aerospace clients, although it is unclear whether the goal was those clients or the telecom firms themselves.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has picked former FDA chief David Kessler to lead Operation Warp Speed, a day after unveiling a nearly $2 trillion pandemic relief plan that includes $400 billion for directly combatting the virus.

Why it matters: Biden's transition team said Kessler has been advising the president-elect since the beginning of the pandemic, and hopes his involvement will help accelerate vaccination, the New York Times reports. Operation Warp Speed's current director, Moncef Slaoui, will stay on as a consultant.

The case of the missing relief money

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A chunk of stimulus payments is missing in action, thanks to a mix up that put as many as 13 million checks into invalid bank accounts.

Why it matters: The IRS (by law) was supposed to get all payments out by Friday. Now the onus could shift to Americans to claim the money on their tax refund — further delaying relief to struggling, lower-income Americans.

The post-Trump GOP, gutted

McConnell (L), McCarthy (R) and Trump. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Republicans will emerge from the Trump era gutted financially, institutionally and structurally.

The big picture: The losses are stark and substantial.

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