Pro-Assad Syrian hackers launching cyber-attacks on western media

The SEA is believed to be financed by Bashar Assad

From  Nick Hopkins and Luke Harding, Guardian:  The Guardian has come under a cyber-attack from Syrian hackers who have targeted a series of western media organisations in an apparent effort to cause disruption and spread support for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) claimed responsibility for the weekend Twitter attack on the Guardian, having previously targeted the BBC, France 24 TV, and National Public Radio in the United States. . . .

Last week the SEA successfully attacked the Associated Press news agency, whose Twitter account was temporarily breached, allowing the group to send bogus messages which wreaked havoc on stock exchanges. The hackers tweeted that President Obama had been injured in a bomb attack at the White House, causing a temporary 143-point drop on the Dow Jones industrial average. . . .

The Guardian first recognised it was being targeted over the weekend when spoof emails were sent to staff encouraging them to click on links that could compromise some of the company’s email and social media accounts. Later, several of the Guardian’s Twitter feeds – including GuardianBooks, GuardianTravel and guardianfilm – were broken into.

The technique is regarded as a classic, if crude, "phishing" attack – where individuals are tricked into giving away details that might allow hackers to gain access to sensitive information or allow them to control systems such as Twitter feeds.

The attack was quickly identified and is in the process of being dealt with. The Guardian has since discovered the attack originated from Internet Protocol (IP) addresses within Syria.

Syrian opposition activists say Assad’s cousin Rami Makhlouf bankrolls the SEA, which recently moved from Syria to a secret office in Dubai.

Makhlouf pays the pro-regime hackers for their activities, and they typically earn $500-$1,000 for a successful attack. They also get free accommodation and food. Sometimes Syrian government officials tell the SEA which western sites to hack; on other occasions the SEA selects its own targets.    (graphic: Guardian)

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