Jillian Scharr, Tom's Guide
The Syrian Electronic Army has been in the news a lot lately — in more ways than one. But who are they, what is their motivation, and why have they had so much success thus far?
They've taken down The New York Times, hijacked the Associated Press' Twitter feed and duped many into believing the White House had been bombed (the world panicked and the stock market plummeted before the deception was discovered).
This group of hackers, which supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, also appears to be responsible for hacking a number of other media websites, including NPR, The Washington Post and fake news site The Onion. In early August, the SEA hacked the blog of a contributor to Britain's Channel 4 news and posted a fake report of a nuclear strike on Syria.
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In each case, the hacks seemed to come in response to an article or post that the SEA deemed anti-Assad.
The SEA's favored hacking methods include distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, in which hackers bombard a website with so many page views that they overwhelm the servers, effectively taking the website offline.
The SEA is also known to use phishing, which means sending official-seeming emails and websites to trick people into divulging login information. Once the SEA has this information, it places false or inflammatory posts on the compromised accounts.
Neither of these techniques is particularly sophisticated in terms of technical skill, but the SEA has been able to use them to great effect.
The most high-profile attack came on Aug. 27, when the SEA (or an organization claiming to be the SEA)effectively knocked The New York Times' website offline. ...more