The civil war in Syria has been ongoing now for more than 3 years. Over the course of this time more than 250,000 people have been killed, and millions more been made refugees. Despite this, the Syrian government of Bashar Al-Assad has managed to cling to power, and holds control of a little less than half the country. While the battles on the ground are fierce and bloody, there is also a digital battle taking place.
The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) is one of the most active hacker grounds in the world. Understood to be civilian computer hackers who have been recruited by the government to disrupt enemy communications and push pro-regime propaganda, they have hacked an impressive number of people and sites. Now however, they have taken this to a whole new level.
In their latest hack, the group has managed to compromise almost every single one of the world’s most highly-trafficked news websites. To achieve this, the group managed to redirect the servers of a startup called Gigya which was providing hosting services to the affected sites. While none of their customer data was hacked, the SEA managed to cause users of these sites to suffer from a pop-up message saying “you’ve been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army”.
After drawing attention to themselves, the SEA used their official Twitter account to criticise the media outlets targeted for reporting ISIS deaths as civilians, possibly in response to media coverage which alleged the government killed over 100 civilians in Raqqa several days ago.
This latest hack comes at a critical time for the Syrian regime. The US government, is tacitly cooperating with them in order to defeat ISIS in Syria, however a change of heart from the US could bring similar airstrikes against the regime itself. Within this context, the attack can be seen as a way of inducing foreign media to take a more pro-Assad stance and hence pressure the US government to avoid attacks against them.