Cyber battles over Syria raging across the Internet

The website of the Syrian Ministry of Defense hacked by the cyber activist network Anonymous

From Abigail Fielding-Smith, the Financial Times:  The conflict between supporters and opponents of the regime of Mr Assad is being fought just as urgently in the cybersphere as on the streets of Homs, and goes far beyond trading insults. Two shadowy transnational armies slug it out on a daily basis for control not of streets and neighbourhoods but of websites and information caches. . . .

Much like the ‘real-world’ Syrian opposition, the cyber-activists are a disparate mixture of individuals and groups in and outside Syria. According to Abdul Hak, groups inside will often do what is known as “hardware hacking”, such as disrupting wires. Opposition cyber activists are said to communicate with each other via Skype, internet relay chat, disposable email addresses and sometimes even the comments sections of random websites.

Their enemy, however, is not to be underestimated. The so-called Syrian Electronic Army, a group of pro-government hackers whom activists allege have received professional help and training, are believed to have hacked the websites of Harvard University and broadcaster Al Jazeera. Others have sought to neutralise Twitter as a tool for mobilising the opposition by using their favoured hashtags such as “16 March” (the day of the first protests) and flooding them with links to porn sites or pictures of Syria in a glow of tranquillity.

The cyber war may seem like a side-show compared with the struggles between protesters, armed insurgents and government forces going on every day inside Syria but, according to Wissam Tarif, a researcher with the campaign group Avaaz, it can have life and death consequences.

“Three months ago, I got a PDF file on my email with more than 40,000 names of people they have detained, and that file came from activists who hacked in to interior ministry website,” he says.  (graphic: Al Jazeera)

Image: al%20jazeera%202%208%2012%20Syria%20MoD%20website%20hacked.jpg