9 Reasons To Worry About The Syrian Electronic Army

AssadBasher al-Assad

A group of anonymous hackers sympathetic to the regime of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is causing havoc with the world’s media.

They call themselves the Syrian Electronic Army, and they’re devoted to attacking sites they deem defamatory to the Syrian government.

The group has attacked or sabotaged the web sites of Twitter accounts of the BBC, Syrian satellite broadcaster Orient TV, Dubai-based al-Arabia TV, National Public Radio, Human Rights Watch, The Onion and the Financial Times.

The group is a distinctly separate entity from Anonymous, but users protect their identities just as fiercely.

The SEA appears to be either backed by — or at least enjoy the support of — Assad, who is currently fighting a civil war for control of his country.

As such, they’re a major threat.

They're media-hacking culture jammers.

The SEA isn't afraid to go hands-on. In fact, it's successfully hacked the Financial Times, the Telegraph, and has gained illegal access to a number of corporate Twitter accounts. It uses these resources to attack sites that paint Syria in an unflattering light (or sites that it thinks are connected to someone doing so).

About 122 web sites have been attacked by the SEA, according to the OpenNet Initiative.

Here's an example of a web page takeover from a hacker who has been linked to the SEA.

Facebook is locked in a war with the SEA, continually disabling its pages. The SEA believes Facebook is somehow supportive of Israel.

They even successfully hacked The Onion.

The Syrian Electronic Army is against fun. It successfully punked famous satire newspaper The Onion, taking over its Twitter account and using it to send messages criticising U.S. stances on Syria.

No one knows who they are.

They hide behind computers. The bad guy is usually scarier when he doesn't have a face.

They already know how to affect major change.

The group emerged during the Syrian uprisings in May 2011. Their aim was to correct what they believed was a pro-rebel bias in coverage of the conflict.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad even recognises the group's power, calling it 'a real army in a virtual reality.'

They may be backed by the Syrian government.

There is no proof that the SEA is an agency of Assad. But its early members belonged to the Syrian Computer Society, according to The New York Times, an organisation run by Assad before he became president.

They can cause severe economic effects.

After the fake AP tweet that President Obama had been injured in an explosion, the stock market lost $136 billion of value.

That's some power.

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