Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Story of the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)


The Story of the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)


The Background Story: On 27 August 2013, the New York Times website was attacked and taken off-line for several hours by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA). The attack resulted in users web browsers being redirected to an SEA page. The attack has been the subject of little interest to most of the major media outlets, and for good reason as I will explain.

First, a quick primer for my friends who are not all technically savvy.  Think of the internet as a bunch of houses all arranged into neighborhoods.  Each house has an address that identifies the country, state, city, and house. When you go visit a website you are actually traveling to a house.  In order to get there you follow the address that is given for the house.

Now imagine that someone changes the address for that house. Instead of going to the house with awesome cat pictures, you end up going to a house that has dead fish pictures. I would think you would be surprised by this, and rightly so. Where the house is located is published by a company that registers the website’s domicile, or domain.

What the SEA did was not about technical ability. Instead of using some tremendous technical ability, they were given the password by someone at the domain registration company.  In short, it was an inside job.

The New York Times, Twitter United Kingdom, and Huffington Post United Kingdom all used the same Domain Registrant.  This is not to condemn the domain registrar in this case; they had a bad apple go rogue. The attack highlights the unsophisticated nature of the attacker.  They could have done more, but they lacked either the skill or planning to do so. No, I will not be telling you what they could have done. Let those morons figure it out alone.

The Skirmish in the Ether: The SEA attack was not the only one going on at this time.  Shortly after the attack a response was launched by at least two hackers in a counter attack on Syrian Government media, and the SEA itself.  Unlike the short lived attack by the SEA these attacks lasted for over 24 hours, and effectively shut down the SEA, and syriously (intentional spelling) affected the Syrian Government. I witnessed and confirmed the targets were indeed taken down, and stayed down. 

Another battle began shortly after the initial attack on the NY Times et al.  In the propaganda war the SEA, which claims to be a Hacker Collective began making claims that they had never come under attack.  The outage of their system was due to their domain registrar suddenly deciding to suspend their account. This ranks up their with Baghdad Bob claiming Americans were not near Baghdad Airport, when in fact they were past the Airport and running off the rest of the Republican Guard. Propaganda is weird that way.  

Propaganda has a way of telling us things the enemy does not want you to know. In this case, IF the SEA is backed by Syria’s government then the Syrian Government has a syrious (I did it again) Information Technology problem.  Oddly, Al-Jazeera, who had been a target of the SEA, has attempted to portray the SEA as some sort of danger.  They very well could be, but the real danger to the Syrian Government is defense of their networks.  There are those poised to make it disappear, or behave badly.

The Final Analysis: The skirmishes in the ether will continue, and I predict will escalate.  At present they do not amount to much in a real sense, but they do demonstrate the capabilities that exist.  

There are certainties we can take from the Civil War.  Syria in the end will lose.  The world outside of Syria will be dangerously affected with further destabilization in the region. War is hell and the longer it lasts the more children will suffer.

Credits and Acknowledgements.

            Sources with held due to security considerations, you are certainly free to investigate the claims I have made.

            I did not come up with the clever us of “Syrious” that was inspired by someone else. We will just say that person will remain an inspiration of sorts.
















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