Friday September 6 2013

– At first glance, they may just seem like pro-Assad thugs and online vandals, commandeering websites in the name of their favourite dictator. But the hacker group known as the Syrian Electronic Army is getting more ambitious and sophisticated, says experts who have looked closely at the tactics underlying their attacks.
The hackers may even be receiving outside help from more skilled and dangerous groups – or even from governments.
The Syrian Electronic Army has been around since 2011, and so far has been known mostly for relatively simple acts of vandalism such as website defacements. Most recently, the group grabbed international attention after commandeering the websites of the The New York Times, The Washington Post and this week the recruitment website for the US Marine Corps.
But this year the group started to up its game. It went after bigger targets, as when it hijacked the Twitter feed of the Associated Press and sent out a false report about a bombing at the White House. But it also hacked into web-based communications services used by Syrian rebels to avoid detection by the regime. The goal presumably wasn’t to vandalise those sites, but to gather information about the rebels using them.
As the army’s ambition has grown, so has its skill level. The attack on The New York Times effectively gave it control of the entire website. It was accomplished not by a frontal assault, but by changing information in the Domain Name System databases via a company in Melbourne. Anyone who tried to visit the Times website was redirected to another site under the Syrian Electronic Army’s control, sporting its logo. Not exactly high-end tradecraft, but not the work of simple vandals, either.
So how did the army get better in only a few months?
“I don’t think it would be unreasonable to suspect someone more skilled is helping them out,” said Adam Meyers, vice-president of intelligence for security firm CrowdStrike.
If Iranian forces have joined forces with the Syrian Electronic Army, that could be a problem for the US. Iranian hackers have already demonstrated their prowess, and they don’t limit themselves to single website attacks and propaganda campaigns. Last year, an operation that erased data on tens of thousands of computers at the oil company Saudi Aramco, as well as a massive denial of service attack on the websites of US banks, which were both attributed to Iran, sent waves of panic throughout US intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
But, if the US attacks Syria, officials are preparing for a retaliatory strike in cyberspace by forces allied with the Syrian regime. The FBI is warning companies and government agencies to brave for possible cyber strikes.
– Shane Harris


About Jumpin' Jack Cash

Deep connections are the most important aspect of my existence. I don’t care if people don’t know what they want. I love books. I’m cynical of love stories, although I’m romantic. I adore gardens. I like women who challenge me. I love the rain as an excuse to stay inside and dream. I'm furiously impatient. If I ask you a question best to tell me the truth as I'm likely to already know the answer. I'm a carnivore. I continuously underestimate the magic of fresh flowers in my home. I love warm rain in the summer. My mood elevates to epic proportions when the sun shines. Tell me not to do something and I'll do it twice and take photos. Running is my antidepressant. I loathe lies. I rarely forgive a lie. Loyalty and honesty are my most noble virtues, and I value them more than anything in other people. I love to love, and am able to fall in love very quickly, although it's only ever happened once. I understood myself and fixed myself only after destroying myself. My greatest excitement comes from deliberately getting lost in foreign cities. I can be extremely loud and frighteningly silent. I hate insinuations. I love storms. Justice for all. I'm a proud man, but welcome the influence of the feminine soul. I have two sisters. I’m a dreamer. I’m a deep thinker. Don’t deal with guilt trips or drama that well. I'm extremely stubborn and persistent. I'm brilliant at keeping secrets. I love driving. I become absolutely and completely lost while watching a burning fire. When the toast pops from the toaster I’m never ready and shit myself. I play the guitar, but require much improvement. Solitude and warmth of the sun are perfect together. I’ve been married once and now divorced. I’m a music junkie. Chocolate mousse is the shit. I curse too much. I find it difficult to make friends. I spent four years as a firefighter. I’ve run my own company since 1991. Bright lights, big cities. I’ve been an executive producer of a feature film. Some people don’t care, and that’s the biggest let-down of the human race. There are cures and solutions for many evils, but no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings. The sound of the Italian language being spoken is as good as my favourite music. I hate corrupt cops. I relentlessly and passionately pursue anybody and anything that sets my soul on fire. I'm a dog lover, and all my dogs are considered family members. I have an obsession with photography. I have some close friends who are household names, but shall always remain anonymous. I’m crazy but not lazy. Losing a soulmate has hurt me badly. My two young sons are the nucleus of my universe. I love airports. I love freedom. If you are dishonest or disloyal, I can erase you from my life and memory immediately and permanently. I yearn to explore, dream about and discover as many friendships, deep connections and places, one possibly can in a lifetime.
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