Technology

08.14.13

Syrian Electronic Army Leader Says the Hacks Won’t Stop

This week’s hacks of the New York Post and SocialFlow show the Syrian Electronic Army is still on its game—and not going anywhere. Brian Ries talks to one of the group’s leaders.

They’ve infiltrated the Associated Press. They’ve pulled one over on The Onion. They’ve hit the BBC, NPR, Thomson Reuters, the Financial Times, and most recently, the New York Post.

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SEA/Twitter

After months of disrupting the Twitter accounts of major U.S. media outlets—causing, with the AP hack, a momentary dip in the stock market—it’s safe to say the hackers who make up the Syrian Electronic Army are on a roll.

On Tuesday afternoon, a little after 3 p.m., the SEA struck again, gaining access to accounts used by the social-media-optimization company SocialFlow, which counts some of the top media outlets in the country as its customers (including The Daily Beast).

Moments later, the hackers hit four journalists employed by the New York Post, the tabloid’s Facebook page, and a columnist for The Washington Post.

In an interview conducted Wednesday morning with The Daily Beast, a self-described leader of the SEA, who uses the handle “SEA the Shadow,” claimed the day’s hacks were in retaliation for Twitter’s continued campaign against its presence on the social network.

“Our account has been closed 15 times,” the hacker said in an interview conducted over the hackers’ medium of choice, Twitter. “We warned that we will hack the Twitter accounts of the mass media if Twitter closed our accounts again. They closed our accounts, and so we have implemented the threat.”

“We warned that we will hack the Twitter accounts of the mass media if Twitter closed our accounts again.”

The hacker said his group’s main goal “has become known to all.”

“We want to see the world the truth about what is happening in Syria,” the hacker said. When asked what that “truth” is, the person stated: “There is no revolution in Syria, but terrorist groups killing people accusing Syrian Arab Army.”

The AP hack, however, was done to cause “damage to the U.S. economy.”

The people behind the pro-Assad SEA have long been a mystery, though in the past the group was thought to be an extension of the regime. The domain name for the group's website was once registered to a Syrian technology group once led by the embattled president. But in May, the SEA announced that the agency that regulates Syria’s domain names had stopped hosting its site.

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SEA

In the interview, “SEA the Shadow” says the group isn’t connected to Assad, but rather, is made up primarily of nine college students, all of whom are living in Syria (back in May, a leader of the group reportedly stated there were just four). The hacker says they aren’t being paid a dollar by the regime. The college-age hackers didn’t know each other before the crisis began back in early 2011, but have since met up in real life, and now coordinate their attacks both online and off.

Asked if they would spare U.S. media from future hacks should Twitter allow their accounts to continue unabated, the hacker said no.

“If Twitter stops deleting our [Syrian Electronic Army] accounts, we will not stop hacking, because there are other reasons,” he wrote.

Asked which media outlets might be next, he wouldn’t say. And is he concerned about NSA snoops tracking members of the group?

“I’m not worried,” he stated. “But sure.”

Regardless, the group’s latest account—the 16th iteration—has been up since July 31. And if the past is any indication, its 17th might not be too far behind.