The Syrian Electronic Army: Lessons to be learned

Davey Winder probes just who is doing just what and why, and asks what enterprises can learn from it.

Digging into who is behind the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) has proved to be harder than expected. Usually these kind of politically motivated groups leave a fairly obvious trail, unless they are of the state-sponsored variety, so could it be that the SEA is a semi-official wing of the Syrian government itself?

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That suggestion would appear to hold some weight, not least that an investigation a couple of months ago by respected IT security journalist Brian Krebs points to the SEA having many sites hosted at addresses belonging to the Syrian Computer Society (SCS) until a sanctions-based seizure of web domains by Network Solutions earlier this year closed them down.

It's worth reading the Krebs investigation, as it provides some fascinating background into how the host domains moved to Russia and were subsequently hacked and documents revealing some of the people behind the SEA obtained as a result. They themselves have claimed to be a "group of enthusiastic Syrian youths" who refused to remain silent in the face of "the massive distortion of facts about the recent uprising in Syria" on one hand.

On the other hand, there's that SCS link to al-Assad and the fact that the SEA makes no bones about being loyal to the Syrian President. But whether you believe that the SEA is a state-sponsored hacktivist cell or just a bunch of script kiddie disrupters is actually by the by. What matters to me, and I would suggest should matter to you, is the fact that some very high-profile media sites with suitably high-flying security budgets and an awareness that they are very attractive targets for hackers of all descriptions should have found themselves victims of the SEA at all.

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