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A Guide to the Hackers of the Syrian Civil War

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, October 9 2013

Screenshot of a Facebook page for the Syrian Electronic Army

The Syrian war is being waged on more than one front. While rebels attack government military facilities and the regime uses chemical weapons against its own people (and is subsequently strong-armed into destroying their cache of chemical weapons), hackers on both sides attack their opposition's websites and social media pages. A report by the Syrian Digital Safety Project SalamaTech profiles the major players in Syria's Hacker Wars.

The major pro-regime player is The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), which has successfully hacked the New York Times website and the Associated Press's Twitter account. On their own turf, the SEA wages cyberwar against anti-regime social media accounts, including their YouTube channels and Facebook groups.

The SEA claims to be independent from the Assad regime, but SalamaTech reports that investigations into the group have revealed close ties with the Syrian government.

Another relatively new pro-regime group to keep an eye on is the Electronic National Defence Forces [sic], which is openly affiliated with the National Defence Forces regime paramilitary group.

On the rebel side, there is no equivalent to the SEA, but instead a number of smaller, upstart hacker groups.

“Possibly the oldest and most persistent” of these, according to SalamaTech, is The Chinese Army for Crushing Syrian Regime Shabiha. They target pro-regime social media pages by reporting them en masse to the companies for violating Terms of Service for infringements like hate speech and incitement to violence. They have successfully been responsible for the removal of a “large number” of pro-regime content on Facebook and YouTube.

The Hackers of the Syrian Revolution take the regime's computer infrastructure as their primary target.

The Jabhat Al Nusra Electronic Army, which claims to be affiliated with the extremist militant group with whom they share a name, have only been visibly active on the hacker scene since June 2013, when they defaced a pro-Assad TV channel's website.

For more information on hacking and the Syrian civil war, see the full FlashNote.

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