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