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The PJ Tatler

Bridget Johnson


September 3, 2013 - 2:34 pm

Taking a cue from China’s massive hacking force, the Syrian Electronic Army has been waging cyberwar on American interests in the name of Bashar al-Assad.

Attacks have included taking over the Associated Press Twitter account in April and claiming the White House had been bombed, redirected the U.S. Marine Corps recruiting site to antiwar messages this month, and took down the New York Times, Huffington Post, Washington Post and Twitter sites last month.

But they’re no match for the world’s most infamous hackers: Anonymous.

Last week, Anons began releasing data they stole in April after infiltrating a server used by the Syrian Electronic Army. Over the weekend, someone began dumping it all on the so-called “deep web,” a portion of the internet that isn’t accessible by traditional browsers or search engines.

…Anons said the data released identifies the Syrian Electronic Army’s core leadership, their methods, personal emails, usernames and passwords used by its members.

“I imagine them as an Assad cronies’ notion of the Chinese Cyber Army, on a shoestring budget,” one Anonymous member, involved in the analysis of the data, told GlobalPost.

The leaked data identified five core leaders — two of which reside inside Syria, according to Anons involved with analyzing the data. Those key leaders include hackers using the nom de guerre The Shadow, The Pro, Syrian_34g13 and vict0r.

The Syrian Electronic Army not only denied that they were compromised, but richly accused Anonymous of conducting “illegal and irresponsible” activities.

The leaked data did appear to give some insight into the group’s skill as a hacker collective. Much of the information indicated that the organization uses relatively unsophisticated — but effective — methods to infiltrate their targets. In most of their security breaches, it used Trojans distributed through spear phishing emails. This apparent lack of sophistication contradicts the common perception that the Syrian Electronic Army is made up of coding prodigies and masterful malware architects.

While Anonymous first accessed the data on April 19, it only released it last week, after accusations that the Assad government had launched a chemical weapons attack on its own people.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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