— SyrianElectronicArmy (@Official_SEA6) April 23, 2013
The Associate Press tweet that falsely told the world President Obama had been injured following explosions inside the White House was the intricate hacking work of the Syrian Electronic Army, the group has claimed. According to the Washington Post, the Syrian Electronic Army is "an informal network of hackers who wage cyber-war in support of the Syrian government and President Bashar al-Assad." On their website,
It seems as though the heavily war-torn country has brought conflict into cyberspace.
Here's what you need to know about these high-profile Internet hijackers:
1. They Hack High-Profile Western Organizations
Recently, the Syrian Electronic Army hacked into Human Rights Watch's Twitter and Website, disseminating the unsubtle message “Syrian Electronic Army Was Here.” Last week, they hacked into National Public Radio’s site and its Twitter feeds, criticizing NPR’s coverage of the Syrian civil war.
On Saturday, hackers identifying as members of the Syrian Electronic Army defaced four Twitter accounts owned by CBS News, including the “60 Minutes” account, which had 320,000 followers until it was disabled by Twitter. The messages accused the United States of supporting terrorism in Syria.
2. They Faked the Confession of the FIFA President
Sepp Blatter, FIFA president, recently shocked the sports world by admitting to the "bribery and corruption allegations that have recently dogged him" through Twitter. The shock evolved into disbelief minutes later when FIFA appeared to announce Blatter’s resignation as president of the word organization. But it was all a hoax crafted by the Syrian Electronic Army. They have also taken credit for the hacking which occurred on the the FIFA World Cup account itself.
These not typical targets for the hackers, who focus on media organizations that cover Syria. One possible explanations behind the FIFA hacking might be Qatar, which was recently awarded the privilege of hosting the 2022 World Cup. Qatar's government is considered a supporter of Syrian rebels.
3. Dow Jones Plummeted After the Recent AP Tweet
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 100 points in reaction to the AP's White House tweet. The tweet reportedly wiped out $136billion in 2 minutes from the S&P 500. Levels went back to normal moments later. This cyber hack is a prime of example of how misinformation can have catastrophic external consequence. It also sheds light on the relationship between Twitter and the financial world
Bloomberg recently announced that Twitter will be incorporated into trader their terminal service, giving subscribers—most of whom have social media blocked on their office computers—access to 140-character insights from a curated list of “several thousand” news outlets, writers and professional traders.
4. Twitter Keeps Suspending SEA's Accounts
Twitter continually shuts down accounts of the Syrian Electronic Army, but they keep popping up.
@Official_SEA has now been suspended. But then hackers created a new account under the name @SyrianCyberArmy. And when that one was shut down, they created yet-another-Twitter-account - @SEA_Official3. And once that one was shut down, the SEA responded by creating @Official_SEA5. It seems as though Twitter and the Syrian Electronic Army are playing a digital game of whack-a-mole.
Today, the group claimed responsibility using the account @Official_SEA6.
5. SEA Does Not Appear to be Specifically Sponsored By Syrian Government
According to the Washington Post, the SEA is an organization composed of professional-quality hackers, who may or may not be paid, as well as a number of earnest volunteers. On their website, the SEA called volunteers to:
contribute with us in supporting the cause of the Syrian Arab people by armaments with science and knowledge against the campaigns led by the Arab media and Western on our Republic by broadcasting fabricated news about what is happening in Syria."
Interestingly, the group doesn’t appear to differentiate between Syrian rebels and foreign groups that merely cover the conflict, considering foreign groups the larger, global enemy. As stated on their website:
What's our cause? We are a group of enthusiastic Syrian youths who could not stay passive towards the massive distortion of facts about the recent uprising in Syria, and this distortion is carried out by many Facebook pages that deliberately work to spread hatred and sectarian intolerance between the peoples of Syria to fuel the uprising.