While stumbling around online, you may have encountered a website that was compromised by a group called the Syrian Electronic Army.
What is the Syrian Electronic Army? Are they actually dangerous? Should you care about them or just laugh at them?
One PC security research company called IntelCrawler recently compiled a 94 page report on one of the world’s most prominent hacking groups. Here is what they learned about the Syrian Electronic Army:
Not just about Syria
Syria is in the midst of a civil war that has devastated the country. Syria is far away from most developed countries and Russian vetoes have prevented western intervention in the region, which is why most people don’t care about Syria or can even point it out on a map.
That’s exactly why so many people have dismissed the Syrian Electronic Army.
However, the Syrian Electronic Army isn’t just about defending Syria’s online presence. In fact, they do much more than that.
The most notable thing the Syrian Electronic Army ever did was hack the Associated Press’s Twitter account to announce that Barack Obama had been injured in an attack on the White House. The attack caused real economic consequences in the United States and stock markets plummeted briefly before the tweet was found to be a hoax.
Other SEA attacks have included assaults on media outlets and human rights groups who spread negative news about Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. They are a decidedly pro-Assad group of hackers.
They have official connections
When people talk about hacking groups, it’s easy to picture a bunch of nerds gathered around computer monitors in dim basements.
But in reality, hacking is just another battlefield in modern conflicts. IntelCrawler’s report suggests that the SEA has major links to officials in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and Hezbollah.
They’re well-funded and well-organized. They also appear to have the official support of a number of Arabic and Islamic regimes throughout the Middle East.
If you stereotyped hackers as being nerds in basements, then you probably also stereotyped Syrians as being desert-dwelling nomads with limited access to electricity, internet, and complex computer systems.
That may be true for some parts of war-ravaged Syria, but that doesn’t mean that the Syrian Electronic Army isn’t sophisticated. In fact, they’re incredibly sophisticated and have been able to totally avoid authorities for over three years.
The IntelCrawler report says that the organization is “well-funded and well-organized.” They’re a full-fledged cyber espionage group.
They’ve stolen weapons systems intelligence from the United States
Perhaps the scariest part about the SEA is that they’ve been caught stealing weapons systems intelligence from U.S. defense contractors.
That doesn’t mean the SEA has the recipe for nuclear missile technology. However, it does mean they’ve been able to hack into some of the most sophisticated “cyber defense” systems in the world to access extremely sensitive information.
Should you be worried?
Unless you’re an employee of a defense contractor or weapons manufacturer, the Syrian Electronic Army probably doesn’t care about you.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t’ care about the SEA: in fact, if you value national security, you should probably care a lot. The fact that the SEO has stolen weapons systems and other valuable intelligence is frightening – especially in the midst of escalating tensions with Russia and Russia’s continuing veto of western intervention in Syria.
You can read the entire fascinating report on the Syrian Electronic Army here: http://intelcrawler.com/ic-sea.pdf