Syrian Electronic Army Hacks International Media Outlets

The pro-Assad hacker organization shut down a number of media sites on Thursday in a coordinated attack.

by John Beck
Nov 27 2014, 2:45pm

A number of news websites appear to have been shut down on Thursday by Syrian pro-government hacker organization the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA). 

The attacks hit a number of outlets, with visitors to the websites of The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent and a number of others receiving a popup saying "You've been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army," then after clicking "ok", being redirected to a page with the SEA logo. 

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica also appears to have been hit, as well as reportedly the LA Times, Forbes, CNBC and others. Twitter users said that non-media sites including those of sports teams and a number of business had been targeted too. 

Most of the websites were quickly returned to normal, although at the time of writing, The Independent's still appeared to be down. 

The SEA back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government and claim to have been responsible for hacking sites belonging to organizations including Human Rights Watch, the Associated Press and Al Jazeera. It even took control of a number of BBC Twitter accounts and used them to post pro-Assad slogans. 

The logo page which visitors to the hacked websites were directed to. 

The group claims to work independently, although it is generally believed to have at least some contact with the government. Potential recruits have reported being escorted by members of the Syrian security forces to SEA safehouses stocked with the latest modern computer gear.

The fortunes of the Assad government have improved in recent months. Once the region's principal target of international outrage, it narrowly escaped a US-led military intervention in 2013, when, despite widespread accusations that it had carried out chemical weapons attacks, Washington settled for a Russia-brokered deal that would instead see it surrender its chemical arsenal. 

Since then, the emergence of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has diverted international attention, while coalition airstrikes against the extremist group have militarily benefited state forces in the civil conflict. With the Syrian regime and the international community now sharing a common enemy, Assad's fall now seems a distant prospect. 

Follow John Beck on Twitter:  @JM_Beck