The information wars are heating up again. The Syrian
Electronic Army (SEA) gained access to domains for Twitter and the New York
Times among others this week, in a mounting war against US media. And now, as
the threat of a US military attack against Syria increases, the group has
threatened to spread its cyber attacks against the US more broadly.
The group, which supports the incumbent Syrian government of
Bashar al-Assad, has been targeting Western media for months. It has hacked Twitter
accounts owned by news organization Al Jazeera, and US news show 60 Minutes,
and used them to spread subversive messages.
This week, the group managed to compromise the account of a
reseller for Melbourne IT, the registrar for web domains including Twitter’s
twimg.com image hosting domain, and nytimes.com. For a while, the registration
information for those domains (which can be found via a WHOIS search) listed
SEA as the administrator.
The group could have done some fairly drastic things with those domains, including taking them off-line, or simply redirecting to a
different site altogether. It could have served up malware to visitors, if it
wanted. There are no signs that any of these things have happened. It seems to
be more of a warning. Melbourne IT changed back the records after it discovered the hack, but the record for twimg.com was still in someone else’s hands
for at least 100 minutes.
In an interview with Mashable, a representative for group
said that the tax could become more serious if the US proceeds with its plans.
“The moment the US government breaks international law by
attacking the sovereign state of Syria, it has given up any rights to complain
about being targeted by us or any other group around the world, as it would
have lost all legitimacy. Yes, we will target all of it,” the
What is perhaps most worrying about the whole thing is how
easy it was for the attackers to effectively gain control of an entire
newspaper's domain with little more than a single well-crafted email to an obscure
IT reseller. If, as it claims, it has more sophisticated attacks at its
disposal, what else could it do if it really decided to flex its muscle? And
why aren't some of the biggest news and social media sites on the Internet more
Danny Bradbury, MSN
Tech & Gadgets